The iconic Salford Quays cargo cranes are due to be demolished this month, with City Mayor, Ian Stewart, weeping that the city can't afford to maintain them (see here). At the same time, Salford Council has launched a competition to build a prestige bridge between The Crescent and The Meadows.
The competition, run by RIBA Competitions, is costing £30,000, while the final bridge, according to the Council, will have a building budget of "up to 1.9million" (see previous Salford Star article – click here).
As if this wasn't insult enough to Salford people, currently reeling under almost £24million of cuts this year while having the Quays cranes demolished, bridge designers and experts are queuing up to slag off Salford Council.
In the Architects Journal this week, top bridge designer and Manser Medal-winner Cezary Bednarski, who has won ten of these bridge contests, laid into the competition
"The just-announced Salford bridge competition is yet another example of how not to do it" he said "There is no respected bridge engineer on the jury. There is no commitment to build anything, nor to employ the winner. The `prize' is derisory and paid only to the shortlisted teams and nothing to the winner…It all looks like a waste of effort and money and is unlikely to attract serious bridge designers – a loss to the client."
The cheapskate Council is also slated by ace bridge blogsite The Happy Pontist (click here and scroll down)…
"So much is wrong with this contest that it's difficult to know where to begin" he writes "The first question is whether there's sufficient political will, and funding available, to ever build a bridge at this site. The competition brief makes precisely no commitment on this point, indeed there's not even a commitment to offer a design contract to the winner."
Salford's history is littered with contest winners that have never seen their projects built – the Urban Splash beach? The `Ikea' village? And one project that was built – the Emmanuel Church on Langworthy Road, is now a semi-derelict eyesore loved only by pigeons (see here).
The Happy Pontist agrees with Cezary Bednarski about the bunch of amateurs joining bridge architect Renato Benedetti on the competition jury, including City Mayor Ian Stewart, Salford Council's Karen Hirst, Les Brown from Countryside Properties and Darren Kibble from the University of Salford.
IABSE competition guidelines state that the jury should have an expert bridge engineer on board but the only technical person on it is Urban Vision's Shoaib Mohammad… "described variously as a Director for Engineering, Streetworks and Landscape Design (on the Urban Vision website) or as a Highways Director, specialising in highways maintenance (on LinkedIn)" states the Pontist "The clear concern must be that structurally challenging submissions will not be properly evaluated, leading to greater risks should the project proceed further."
The Happy Pontist adds that "the design parameters offered to competitors are skimpy", the "paltry" prize money means "the winner is less well off than the two runners-up" and also doubts whether the thing will ever get built…
"One of the biggest causes of competition failure is a mismatch between the promoter's budget, their aspirations, and their understanding of what the submitted designs may cost" he writes "There seems to be nothing in the rules about a proper evaluation of costs for any of the designs, and there is a real probability that large numbers of submissions will depict something well beyond the likely budget.
"Salford say they are looking for an `iconic' structure, but it's far from clear whether they have the appetite for an `iconic' cost."
Like the £13million Greengate Square Fountain, Salford Council can always find extra `iconic' money for new prestigious projects (see here), while it cuts public services to the bone and demolishes much loved heritage structures and buildings.
Indeed, the £30,000 costs for the bridge competition alone would have stopped the partial closure of Ordsall Hall (see here).
If, as the bridge experts suspect, the latest Salford bridge never gets built, that's more public money down the drain. And if it does get built, half arsed as the experts also suspect, Salford's community might want to know how the Council can afford almost £2million for a bridge in the midst of almost £24million of cuts.