150m Bellingham bridge to light up HS2’s gateway into Birmingham

HS2

Bellingham Bridge, Birmingham, HS2, UK,

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HS2 reveals unique designs for 150m Bellingham bridge as part of the approach to the new Curzon Street Station, creating a new icon for central Birmingham.

HS2 Ltd has revealed designs for the 150-metre section of the viaduct as part of the approach to Birmingham’s new Curzon Street Station, including a 25-metre-high truss that will create a new icon on the city’s skyline.

A unique light installation designed by British artist Liz West,will introduce a dynamic colour palette to the apertures of the steel truss, framing views of the city. Titled Out of the Blue, the proposed artwork will establish the bridge as a stunning feature of the city’s landscape both during the day and at night when the artwork will come to life.

The Curzon 2 bridge, nicknamed “The Bellingham Bridge” by the team in honour of England superstar and Stourbridge-born Jude Bellingham’s performances at the World Cup, is the tallest structure in the sequence of viaducts and structures that make up the Curzon Street Approaches. These Approaches take HS2 into Birmingham’s new city centre station. The bridge consists of a gently curved truss in weathering steel which carries HS2 over the Victorian brick rail viaduct below.

A truss bridge is light but strong, composed of connected elements that form triangular units, and is economical to build because it’s constructed using a relatively small amount of material. This makes the truss form ideal for assembling offline and launching from one end and in one piece across the existing railway viaduct below. The team believe this construction method will be among the longest bridge launches ever delivered in the UK.

“Our design ambition for the Curzon 2 bridge is to create an elegant, iconic structure, fitting its prominence on the Birmingham skyline, creating a legacy for HS2 and contributing positively to the city’s identity day and night,” says HS2 Ltd Design Director Kay Hughes. 

“The curved truss design celebrates Birmingham’s industrial heritage, and we’re pleased that we’ve been able to engage a prominent artist to work with our architects to create a distinctive lighting installation, which will be a striking addition to Birmingham’s city skyline,” says HS2 Ltd Design Director Kay Hughes. 

The gently curved truss is 150-metres long and 25 metres tall. It will be assembled on the ground and launched into its final position over the existing Victorian brick rail viaduct at around 17 metres above the ground so that the whole structure will be 40 metres high. A truss is the most efficient structural form for a launching process, which is likely to be one of the largest significant ridge launches in the UK. 

HS2 trains will cross the truss bridge to leave the city towards HS2’s Washwood Heath Depot. The site, located northeast of Birmingham City Centre, will maintain, service, and store HS2 trains when not in use, generating over 500 long-term jobs for local people.

Acclaimed artist Liz West has worked across the UK and the world with organisations including the National Trust, Natural History Museum, London Design Festival and Natural England. Using a variety of materials and exploring the use of light, she blurs the boundaries between sculpture, architecture, design and painting to create playful and immersive works. Liz is based near Manchester with close family ties to Birmingham and knows the city and the West Midlands area well. 

“The core concept of my work is to depict and symbolise a physical and metaphorical meeting point of colours, people and spaces, linking locations through creating an immersive, atmospheric and experiential encounter. The use of colour, light and form creates a sense of connectivity and movement, echoing how the public use, navigates and experiences train travel,” says Artist Liz West. 

The artwork will ‘paint’ the triangular structures within the new Curzon 2 viaduct, mixing multiple linear coloured lights. The blending and merging of the light will create dynamic colourways, frame the sky beyond, and create new city vantage points.

“HS2 is delivering an ambitious arts and culture strategy that will enhance the design and delivery of HS2 for communities up and down the country. I am delighted that artist Liz West has created a new public artwork for HS2 in Birmingham, which will become a new regional landmark that celebrates the creativity and vibrancy of the West Midlands,” says HS2 Ltd Head of Art and Culture Anne Mullins. 

The design for the Curzon Street Approaches section of HS2’s Phase One is being developed by a Design Joint Venture of Mott MacDonald and Systra and architects Weston Williamson + Partners; all are working for HS2’s civils contractor Balfour Beatty VINCI joint venture.

“Conceptually, the Curzon Street Approach Viaducts are a series of moments along a coherent thread of structures that will bring HS2 trains into Birmingham. The Curzon 2 bridge, above its V-shaped piers, represents a special and unique moment when the herculean engineering of HS2 will be on full display as it crosses the Victorian viaduct below. This has only been possible with the close collaboration between contractor, engineer, architect and artist,” says BBV Design Join Venture Lead Architect Nick McGough. 

“The curved truss is made from weathering steel, a highly robust material that will pick up tones from the surrounding area as its protective patina develops while reducing maintenance costs across the lifespan of the high-speed rail line,” says BBV Design Join Venture Lead Architect Nick McGough. 

Several refinements have been made to the design, which is now set to be submitted to Birmingham City Council. These include how the truss has been designed to ‘wrap’ around the viaduct, extending the bottom of the steel to wrap underneath the viaduct deck and forming a visual connection to the steel girders of the adjacent structures. The nodes where the diagonal members meet will have curved corners to provide longevity to the steelwork whilst softening the bridge’s silhouette.

The width of the viaduct deck itself has also been increased by four metres, allowing the bridge to carry three parallel high-speed rail tracks over the existing east-west rail line. Closer to Curzon Street, the tracks will split even further to serve the seven platforms being built at the station.

The River Rea, a small watercourse that runs through the city, will pass close to the southern section of the viaduct, presenting a unique opportunity to establish a pond next to Inkerman Street for foraging urban bird species, insects, and bats. The 52 metres long pond will lie parallel to the viaduct and is designed to increase the area’s resiliency to flooding by providing a natural overflow for rainwater, preventing heavy rainfall from overwhelming the River Rea.

To blend the water feature into the local landscape, HS2 will plant native grassland around the pond, removing invasive species of plants, including Japanese Knotweed, that has already been identified near the viaduct.

Source: © High Speed Two Ltd 2022

Image source: © High Speed Two Ltd 2022

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