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New bridge competition row

The row between architects and engineers over bridge design has erupted again this week after the Royal Institute of British Architects launched another design competition that excludes engineer-led teams.

The move has enraged engineers who had believed progress was being made to set up a comprehensive bridge design competition.

This would put RIBA, the ICE and the Institution of Structural Engineers in joint control (NCE 1 May).
The aim is to ensure that the winning design is structurally sound, after fears were raised as long ago as 2006 that clients, seduced by dazzling presentations, were selecting complex, high maintenance designs (NCE 2 March 2006).

Concerns were triggered by Salford’s £1.9M Trinity Bridge, which has been plagued by durability problems. It was designed by Spanish architect engineer Santiago Calatrava and has been roundly criticized by traditional engineers.

The latest competition to draw ire from engineers is for the design of a new bridge crossing the River Douglas in Preston. Only architect-led teams are allowed to enter.

The bridge, to be a cycle and bridleway, is being promoted by materials reclamation promoter Remade with Lancashire County Council and the North West Regional Development Agency.

"We would like to go for it but are currently (apparently) prohibited by the competition rules," said Expedition Engineering director Chris Wise.

"There is absolutely no way we would look for an architect to front our bid. That would be like Newton asking Shakespeare to front his scientific manuscripts and worse, the public would think that Shakespeare was responsible for the Three Laws of Motion."

The RIBA competitions office was unavailable for comment as NCE went to press.

In April, it denied to NCE that it had excluded engineers in the past . This denial followed complaints from engineers and calls for the ICE to run its own bridge competitions.

At the time a RIBA competition manager said: "We would accept submissions from multi disciplinary teams and it’s down to the team to inform us who needs crediting."

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