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Sam Crawford Architects designs an eel-shaped pedestrian bridge

The sustainably built Bara Bridge replaces a decaying pedestrian bridge and connects the park to a new light rail station, broader pedestrian/cycle networks and surrounding suburbs.

Sam Crawford Architects designs an eel-shaped pedestrian bridge

In the past, pedestrian bridges were mere utilitarian structures. Over the years, architects have continued to update the design, both for structural and artistic reasons. Some are so spectacular that they become destinations in and of themselves. This could ring true for the Bara Bridge conceived by Sam Crawford Architects (SCA); not for its extravagant design, but more so for its ecological efforts and community-centric design. 

The 40-metre-long pedestrian and cycle bridge sits lightly above a pond system within a major park in Sydney, Australia. The sinuous curved shape of the bridge was inspired by the shape of ‘bara’ eels and their migration to the Pacific Ocean from the very pond it traverses.

Sam Crawford Architects designs Bara Bridge

Says Sam Crawford, Director of SCA: “The shape, movement and colour of the long-finned eels are reflected in the form and materiality of the bridge design. The bridge celebrates ancient Indigenous culture and is an environmentally sensitive addition to the vast Centennial Parklands, linking them to surrounding areas in inner Sydney.” Durable, recyclable and low maintenance materials were chosen to reflect this.

Local spotted gum is used for handrails and kerbs, sandstone for paving and retaining blocks. The bridge deck is crafted from lightweight, non-slip fibre glass reinforced plastic mesh (FRP) while the railings are made of different coloured anodised aluminium for its sheen, colourfastness, and a hundred per cent recyclability. The entire structure and balustrade were fabricated off-site to ensure accuracy and minimise waste.

Related: This ribbon-like infrastructure is more than just a pedestrian bridge

Sam Crawford Architects designs Bara Bridge

It’s clear that environmental values are at the heart of the design; so much so that only three piles were driven into the pond bed to minimise disruption to the pond ecosystem. A four-prong cruciform steel structure from each pile supports the bridge and provides both lateral and longitudinal stability. This new accessible gateway “protects banks from erosion, preserves habitat for endangered species, and provides visitors with an opportunity to directly engage with the pond ecosystem,” says Crawford. 

A second stage of the project will provide interpretation and wayfinding, marking this important gateway to the Parklands.

Photography by Brett Boardman.
Sam Crawford Architects designs Bara Bridge
Bara Bridge railing design
Bara Bridge railing design


Bara Bridge

Client: Centennial Park & Moore Park Trust

Location: Dharawal Country / Centennial Parklands, Sydney, Australia

Architect: Sam Crawford Architects

Project Team: Sam Crawford, Ben Chan, Imogene Tudor, Ken Warr

Interpretation Strategy Consultant: Lymesmith with Christie Fearns Graphic Design

Accessibility Consultant: Morris Goding Access Consulting

Geotech Consulting: JK Geotechnics

Structural Engineer: Simpson Design Associates

Surveyor: Opus

Quantity Surveyor: Altus Page Kirkland

Builder: Christie Civil

Size: 40m long

Awards: 2022 Australian Institute of Architecture NSW Award for Small Project Architecture – Shortlisted

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