Nfld. & Labrador

Bowring Park bridge gets heritage status, as St. John's looks for revitalization cash

The bridge was designed by renowned structural architect Ove Arup, who designed the Sydney Opera House.

Bridge was built to span railroad tracks running through Bowring Park

A bridge in Bowring Park, designed by world renowned engineer Ove Arup, has trees growing around it and graffiti at its base. (Arup Group, CBC)

An often-overlooked bridge at the back of Bowring Park in St. John's is getting some love from city council — and hopefully a federally funded facelift — now that it has been granted heritage status.

Council voted unanimously in favour of the designation at its Monday meeting. 

The mid-century bridge was designed by world-renowned engineer Ove Arup, who helped design the Sydney Opera House. It is a cantilever style, meaning the bridge is anchored to the ground on only one end while the other side hovers.

The architect of the bridge was Blanche Lemco van Ginkel, who just received the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada's gold medal for lifetime achievement.

Since at least 2017, the city has had discussions about protecting the bridge and trying to find funding to fix it up and honour its unique nature.

"We wanted to make sure that it was understood this was a significant piece of heritage for the city and for the province," said St. John's Mayor Danny Breen following a council meeting on Monday. 

"As well, I understand there's then the opportunity to get funding from the federal government to assist with the revitalization of the bridge."

The bridge, which hovers off the ground on one end, has been largely unrecognized, despite being designed by one of the world's premier structural engineers. (Arup Group)

At a council meeting in January, Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O'Leary said she had discussions with Arup Group — the company that Ove Arup started in 1946 — to contribute to the project.

The bridge has some cracks in the concrete, as well as graffiti on each end. It also has a modern metal hand railing, quite different from the one originally designed by Arup.

The bridge was commissioned in the late 1950s, to be funded by the Canadian National Railway.

The bridge was built to join two sides of the park separated by railroad tracks. (Arup Group)

It was meant to bridge two sections of the park and span the railroad tracks that ran through the middle of the park.

It was said to have been one of Arup's favourite projects, and one of the last he completed before working on the Sydney Opera House.

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