Bara Bridge, Centennial Parklands
Dharawal Country / Centennial Parklands, Sydney, NSW
‘Bara’ eel migration spawns shimmering sinuous bridge. Read more about how our bridge design connects a park to its surroundings and beyond.
Bara Bridge, Centennial Parklands
2021 Dharawal Country / Centennial Parklands, Sydney, NSW
The design of a new pedestrian and cycle bridge in Centennial Park was inspired by the shape of ‘bara’ eels and their migration to the Pacific Ocean from the very pond it traverses.
The shape, movement and colour of the long-finned eels is reflected in the form and materiality of the bridge design. The bridge celebrates ancient Indigenous culture and is an environmentally sensitive addition to the vast park, linking it to surrounding suburbs and beyond.
The dynamic expression of the bridge draws attention to the incredible and ancient migration of the eel to reproduce, an important food source for the local Dharawal people. Their journey takes the eels from the park’s ponds, through storm-water drains to the salt water at Botany Bay, and then to spawning grounds near New Caledonia thousands of kilometres away.
The sinuous curved shape of the bridge recalls the movement of the eels which swim slowly by means of lateral movements of the body. As they move, they shimmer.
The bridge’s railings are made of different coloured anodised aluminium fanning out at the centre, echoing the skeletal structure and dynamism of the eel. They shimmer in the sunlight, reflect off the surface of the water, just like the eels’ silvery underbelly. Colours, also inspired by the local Eastern Suburb Banksia Scrub, were selected for camouflage and movement.
Other gateways to the park reflect European sensibilities but this contemporary connection commemorates millennia of Indigenous culture. The accessible gateway replaces a decaying and inaccessible pedestrian bridge and connects the park to a new light rail station and broader pedestrian/cycle networks.
The 40 metre long bridge sits lightly above a pond system, protects banks from erosion, preserves habitat for endangered species, and provides visitors with an opportunity to directly engage with the pond ecosystem.
The bridge widens at the centre to form a viewing platform, allowing pedestrians to pause and appreciate the flora and fauna, such as endangered banksia scrubs and native grasses.
Materials were carefully chosen for their low maintenance, durability, and recyclability: local spotted gum handrails and kerbs, sandstone paving and retaining blocks, lightweight, non-slip fibreglass reinforced plastic mesh (FRP) bridge deck, anodised aluminium balustrade and painted steel super-structure.
To minimise disturbance to the pond ecosystem just three piles were driven into the pond-bed. A four prong cruciform steel structure from each pile supports the bridge and provides both lateral and longitudinal stability.
To ensure accuracy and minimise waste the entire structure and balustrade was assembled offsite and reassembled on site.
2022 AIA NSW Award for Small Project Architecture – Shortlisted
2023 Barcelona International Landscape Biennial – Selected Project
Sam Crawford, Ben Chan, Imogene Tudor, Ken Warr
Interpretation Strategy : Lymesmith with Christie Fearns Graphic Design
Accessibility : Morris Goding Access Consulting
Geotech: JK Geotechnics
Structural Engineer: Simpson Design Associates
Quantity Surveyor: Altus Page Kirkland
Centennial Park & Moore Park Trust