A Harmonious and Dignified Bridge That Only Touches Lightly on the Shore

June 5, 2010

In the western region of New Zealand’s North Island, a bridge for pedestrians and bicyclists made its debut at the city of New Plymouth. Te Rewa Rewa Bridge, which measures 229.7 feet (70 meters) in length and crosses the Waiwhakaiho River, was officially opened by Peter Tennent, mayor of New Plymouth; and Steven Joyce, New Zealand’s minister of transport.

Te Rewa Rewa Bridge was built as part of the northern extension of the Coastal Walkway, a 7.9-mile (12.7-kilometer) pedestrian/bicyclist route in the New Plymouth area. The north river bank of the bridge’s location is the site of a historic pā (settlement) and burial ground for the Ngāti Tawhirikura hapū (clan) of the Te Āti Awa iwi (tribe) of the Māori people. Consequently, the New Plymouth District Council negotiated a special agreement with the Ngāti Tawhirikura hapū in which it was stipulated that the burial ground known as Rewa Rewa would be respected and left intact during construction of the bridge and thereafter.

As the designer of Te Rewa Rewa Bridge, Peter Mulqueen of Novare Design Ltd. kept these priorities in mind. He later explained that he sought to have the bridge only “touch lightly” on the northern side of the river, and this meant staying clear of weightier designs like cable stay and angular truss factors. Mulqueen’s also sought to come up with a bridge with a “harmonious and dignified character.” The key innovative feature of this tied arch bridge is a wave-like formation consisting of 19 rib structures, intended to represent the sacred relationship of land, sea, and wind in that part of New Zealand.

This unique architectural style, coupled with a clear view of the region’s picturesque stratovolcano Mount Taranaki from the bridge, has made Te Rewa Rewa Bridge both a popular local landmark and heavily used crossing. During the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge’s first full month of operation in July 2010, a total of 55,756 individuals made their way across the bridge by bicycle or foot.

Te Rewa Rewa Bridge has been the recipient of several awards. These include the Arthur G. Hayden Medal, which was presented at the 2011 International Bridge Conference in Pittsburgh.

For more information on Te Rewa Rewa Bridge, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Te_Rewa_Rewa_Bridge.

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