Te Rewa Rewa Bridge, open to foot and cycle traffic only, crosses the Waiwhakaiho River on New Plymouth’s coastal walkway.
The Big T and I first spotted the bridge’s arched white skeleton from a distance — unsure what exactly we were seeing. The overall impression is one of giant dinosaur or fish bones, or perhaps a breaking wave? The ribbed structure was the designer’s response to the landscape; coastal, semi-rural and also the site of a Maori burial ground.
Peter Mulqueen, the engineer who designed the bridge has said of his design that it should “touch lightly” on the Rewa Rewa side of the river, in order to honour the deceased (1)
Organic design — allowing human-made structures to harmonise with the natural landscape –is a relatively recent trend in New Zealand engineering projects. It is driven perhaps by a changing philosophy within engineering design towards greater sensitivity to nature, but also owes much to new design technologies which enable engineers to virtually model ideas to test their feasibility and robustness.
The Big T works with such technologies every day, and there is a special pleasure in visiting beautiful works of engineering with him, knowing that the work he and others do is playing a huge role in lightening the touch of humans on the natural world around us.