by Jerry ElengicalDec 06, 2021
A bridge is a link. A genesis of a path leading to and fostering the beginning of a conversation of what is, and what should be. Thus, beginning an important dialogue in terms of design sustainability and greener construction materials, British designer Paul Cocksedge announced his first project in South Africa at Design Indaba 2020, by building a literal ‘exploded bridge’ across the Liesbeek River in Cape Town. The project sees Cocksedge, known for his people-centric works, employ treated Eucalyptus wood.
Aside from its medicinal and aromatic benefits, the value of eucalyptus as a sustainable and functional material for building has been known through ages. Some eucalyptus plantations grow 30 times more wood every year than other trees, and the tree grows upright, making for the perfect straight-wood for flooring, wall paneling and trellises.
This is Cocksedge’s second project that explores the use of wood and its environmental credentials, following the interactive open space wooden installation, ‘Please Be Seated’, at the London Design Festival last year.
Envisioned within the public open space of the the Upper Liesbeek River Garden, the bridge is being developed in collaboration with Design Indaba, WSP and building company XLAM. He plans to work with XLAM to turn the Eucalyptus tree into Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) – a structural, prefabricated timber panel which is a more sustainable alternative to concrete, masonry and steel, requiring less water and less energy to manufacture. The timber is glued in longitudinal and transverse layers, which creates a very strong and stable structural material.
“It has been incredibly exciting working with the team at Design Indaba and with the design community in South Africa, which has been the first for myself and my team,” says Cocksedge. “This bridge is a relatively simple visual gesture, but it addresses important issues around our environment, and how we can innovate with CLT to create new structures.”
The design is based on wooden planks stacked one on top of the other, with the bridge resembling an 'exploded' view of one of these bundles. There appears to be a blur of wood blending in and out of the landscape. There’s movement and there’s stillness, and the scene is dotted with clusters of benches allowing for leisurely seating and great views of the river, nature and wildlife.
The project adds to Cocksedge’s other experimental explorations in sustainability, such as the memorable 33-metre long sun canopy for the Oman Botanic Garden. Known for everything from his design products, architectural projects, installations and sculptures, his work has always been infused with the sense of simplicity, joy and wonder.
With a legacy that has been inspiring viewers for more than two decades now, the annual Design Indaba conference brings together changemakers and innovators from all over the world. Held at the Artscape Theatre in Cape Town from February 26 - 29 this year, it presented an expansive experience, celebrating design and questioning norms over three days of live music, theatre, exhibitions, master classes, conferences and talks.