English architect Martin Knight has designed some pretty spectacular bridges across the Northern Hemisphere, but he reckons Te Matau a Pohe - the new bridge across Whangarei Harbour - is one of his best.
Mr Knight - whose previous bridges include the 760 million ($1.46 billion) Forth Replacement Bridge, that spans the Forth Estuary in Scotland, the 350m long Middle Rhine bridge in Germany and the 2.4km long Mersey Gateway in Northern England - finally got to see his latest bridge finished on Friday, just a day ahead of its formal opening.
He breathed a huge sigh of relief as he watched on site the distinctive fish-hook bascule lift and close smoothly and effortlessly for the first time on the $32 million project.
He'd watched the work on the bridge progress via a live webcam, and had visited the project during construction, but Friday was his first sight of the completed bridge in all its glory.
"I'm completely blown away," Mr Knight said as he watched the fish hook-shaped bascule lift and close in about five minutes. "I'm almost speechless. It's genuinely the best looking, the best functioning bridge I've ever been involved in. Your council had very high expectations and I think they've been achieved. This looks amazing."
His company Knight Architects was one of a number of tenders to design the bridge and it was his unique design, which incorporates the culture of the city and blends in with its surroundings, that was chosen.
"I wanted to create something that was aspirational and our approach was to design a bridge that was all about place making. Everybody loves bridges, and many people identify themselves by the bridges of their home, so we wanted to do something that was special and specific for this place," he said.
"And for a lifting bridge it has to be absolutely functional and reliable, but it has to be unique."
He said it helped that the chief engineer for the project, Duncan Peters of Auckland civil engineering company Peters and Cheung, was involved from the outset.
"It's a team effort really and the challenge was to do something as distinctive as possible, but at the same time be as unobtrusive as possible. I think we've got that," Mr Knight said.
And there's something of Mr Knight's background in the design of many of his bridges. The hydraulic arms lifting the bascule are bright yellow, the same colour as his old Combi van he once toured around in.
Mr Peters said the bridge had harmony with its surroundings and was something Whangarei should be proud of.
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