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Gateshead's winking eye
Gateshead Millennium Bridge (Gateshead)
Author Name: Praskipark
Gateshead Millennium Bridge (Gateshead)
Date: 05/12/12, updated on 07/12/12 (43 review reads)
Advantages: An innovative, functional design, great views from the pedestrian deck
It seemed strange to visit Gateshead in June of this year with my husband as it was a bit like walking down memory lane for him. Many years ago he used to work with Gateshead Council and often spent whole weeks training and would stay over. I think I may have travelled with him a couple of times but I really couldn't remember a lot about the place except the lovely Tyne Bridge. I have always had a soft spot for that bridge. You can imagine how excited I was when I saw the Millennium Bridge from the windows of The Sage on the second morning of our visit. It was far too windy and wet to physically stand on the bridge on that particular morning but we did go back the day after when the weather was a bit brighter.
I did wonder why this part of the north east needed another bridge as there are so many already crossing the Tyne between Newcastle and Gateshead. Is it six or seven including this one? I'm not sure but let's say, there seems to be a lot.
Why was a new bridge needed then? The council of Gateshead and residents wanted a new bridge to look spectacular but not to outshine the other line of bridges. It also had to be able to link developments on both sides of the river and have special features like; a deck so that cyclists and pedestrians would be able to travel easily across and an additional deck that would form a curve across the River Tyne. Another important feature would be one that allowed boats and ships to pass underneath so the arch of the bridge would have to be lifted to allow this. A tall order for any architect to come up with, I think.
Instead of the Council sending out tenders for work, a competition was held for architects to enter designs and the residents along with members of the council would choose the winner. In 1996 the winning group of architects, Wilkinson Eyre were chosen by the people of Gateshead for their innovative design and their plans were turned into one of the most elegant and functional bridges in England.
The bridge looks stunning from a distance but when you stand on the pedestrian deck looking out towards the Tyne Bridge and The Sage you feel exhilarated, Well, I did. I was very excited and loved the views on both sides because when you turn around you see the wonderful old flour mill which is now the Baltic Contemporary Art Gallery. I love the steel arch and the way it is supported by suspension cables. Apart from looking elegant the cables are functional as they help increase the stability of the bridge. I did notice that the pedestrian path was slightly higher than the cycle path. This is a great design as it allows cyclists to cycle safely across and at the same time keeps the view across the river clear.
If you look at the bridge from a distance it does look like an eye and is sometimes called the 'winking eye.' We didn't manage to see the bridge open to let ships underneath but I would have liked to. There is a bridge in Lagos in Portugal that is very similar to this design and I used to stand for ages watching the boats go underneath. I used to love the way the arch tilted slowly allowing the pedestrian deck to rise up in the air so that both counterbalanced each other. I believe Gateshead Millennium Bridge works the same way.
It was daylight when we stood on the bridge so didn't see it lit up but I can imagine the splendour of the pedestrian deck, balustrade and arch when twinkling with crystal lights. It must look beautiful.
I have to give full marks for Wilkinson Eyre designing such a bridge. The residents of Gateshead must be very proud of their silver steel eye. It's a beauty!
You can find Gateshead Millennium Bridge on the waterfront, Gateshead Quays, next to the Baltic Gallery and The Sage.
There are car parks in and around the Quays and if travelling by bus there is a yellow bus that connects Gateshead and Newcastle waterfronts. The bus runs regularly, every 10 minutes.
Summary: A very attracive bridge in Gateshead