Installation of a landmark new bridge, which connects Swansea city centre to its marina and beach, was completed over the weekend. A coastal city like Barcelona and Vancouver, Swansea’s internationally acclaimed coastline had been separated from the city by a major road, put in place as part of rebuilding efforts following the infamous Swansea Three Nights’ Blitz of World War II. The latest achievement is an iconic moment in the £1 billion public sector-led regeneration of Swansea, which predates Covid and is a model for how cities can build back better post-pandemic.
The crossing will serve as both a statement bridge and a striking visual representation of the work Swansea Council is carrying out to create an urban destination that brings together the best of city living and access to nature. Designed by a local artist and an award-winning architectural practice, the 49-metre bridge will span six lanes of traffic, acting as a gateway to the city-centre for both pedestrians and cyclists.
Swansea city centre is undergoing one of the largest urban transformations currently being delivered in the UK. £1 billion is being invested in comprehensive projects across the city to allow Swansea to realise its potential as one of the most vibrant places to live, work, visit and study in the nation.
Swansea Council, as the city’s largest landowner, is in an exceptional position to radically reimagine what a post-Covid city looks like. Alongside RivingtonHark, the town and city centre regeneration specialists that act as development manager on the emerging Copr Bay Phase One scheme, the Council’s ambitious vision has taken on an increased importance since the beginning of the Covid pandemic. With its emphasis on active travel, sustainable and beautiful public spaces, and leisure and hospitality, as well as the removal of redundant and outdated retail space, the Council’s vision for Swansea, which was set in motion before the pandemic, has been vindicated.
Part-funded by the Welsh Government’s Access To Travel grant, the bridge provides seamless access between Swansea city centre and a new 3,500-capacity arena being built in the leisure-led first phase of the Copr Bay project. By improving access between Swansea city centre, its emerging leisure and hospitality offering, and its surrounding areas of natural beauty, the bridge will be both a visually appealing crossing and a landmark in the project to reimagine what cities should offer in the post-pandemic era.
Rob Stewart, Leader of Swansea Council, said: “Connecting our new city centre to the sea is an iconic moment in our ambitious transformation of our city. This bridge will be a permanent beacon that tells people what Swansea is all about: an open, vibrant destination where opportunities are created and barriers overcome.
“Swansea will be the city held up as the model post-pandemic place, where people can experience the best of both urban living and the beauty of nature. Swansea is blessed with a magnificent coastline and stunning woodlands that are internationally recognised as being among the most beautiful places in the world, onto which is added a vibrant and emerging day-to-night lifestyle in the city. Swansea also boasts an economy that benefits from the insights and graduates of two top-class universities and is expected to be one of the top areas for employment growth in the UK. Swansea has it all – and, with our memorable new bridge, we are making it clearer than ever that our city is open.”
A symbolic moment in the regeneration of Swansea, the installation process took just two hours, with construction having taken place nearby – on the Copr Bay construction site – between April and December 2020. Designed in a partnership between internationally renowned Swansea-born artist Marc Rees and award-winning architectural practice ACME, the bridge balances a contemporary aesthetic with references that celebrate the city’s heritage. The bridge design includes 2,756 laser cut origami-inspired shapes, each dispersed across the panels to create a visually interesting pattern and sometimes creating a complete origami swan image.
Marc Rees said: “It has been the thrill of a lifetime to be involved in such an iconic part of the regeneration of my hometown. Dylan Thomas infamously described Swansea as an “ugly, lovely town” – whatever the merits of that when he said it, Swansea’s aspiration to change, grow and flourish is more than apparent now. The Council’s transformation of the city is creating a modern, vibrant city and opportunities for residents, artists and businesses, both those who call Swansea their home and those who should.”
Mark Williams, Executive Director of RivingtonHark, said: “In our society, there are few things more practically useful and symbolically potent than a bridge. Swansea’s newest crossing, part of this ambitious reimagining of what a post-pandemic city should look like, takes this one step further in connecting the urban to nature, the hustle and bustle of the city to the sweeping coastline, and bringing with it the economic and social benefits that come from a more beautiful place to live, work, study and visit.
“As we begin to emerge from the pandemic, cities like Swansea – led by a creative local authority and supported by private sector partners – are excellently placed to provide a better quality of life to residents and build back better.”
The £135 million first phase of the Copr Bay project, part of the wider regeneration of the city, features statement design and striking architecture combined with new leisure uses and green spaces. Attractions will include a 1.1-acre coastal park, which will be the first major park created in the city since the Victorian era, a cycle hub and a 3,500-capacity arena and live events space.
Copr Bay Phase One also features a 1,500 sq ft café and restaurant in its landscaped new coastal park, with a further 8,000 sq ft of hospitality space, encompassing a range of independent cafes, restaurants and shops.