Even those who came up the Foyle in a bubble will know by now that this weekend sees the opening of Derry’s Peace Bridge.
The historic opening of the River Foyle’s first pedestrian bridge is to be attended by the great and the good from far and near with invites being sent to the likes of Taoiseach Enda Kenny and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
The ceremony is to be led by an EU Commissioner - believed to be Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn - in light of the fact that the £14,667,000 bill for the structure is being footed by our European friends under the Peace III programme.
It’s understood that the EU President himself, José Manuel Barroso, was also invited to attend but declined due to an alternative engagement.
The festivities are due to get underway at around 1.30pm and although security is expected to be tight for the grand opening ceremony, the organisers are hoping some sunshine won’t be a bridge too far.
The opening events are running in conjunction with the Carnival of Colours in St. Columb’s Park and the One World Festival at Guildhall Square. For the first time, the two events will be linked by the new bridge and Saturday’s celebrations will culminate in a firework spectacular and the official switch-on of Mute Meadow, an illuminated public art project for the city.
Created by London based artists Vong Phaophanit, a former Turner Prize Nominee (1993), and Claire Oboussier, the £800,000 iconic artwork was designed as a dramatic symbol of Derry’s transformation from a city of conflict to a city of culture. Mute Meadow is the largest public art project on the island of Ireland to date.
Following the launch of Mute Meadow and the end of the opening day activities, Ilex - which has overseen the construction of the bridge - in partnership with the Churches Trust, hopes to gather together people from all faiths across the city to lead a special overnight vigil of light on the Peace Bridge.
Convening for two-hour shifts from 11.30pm on Saturday the groups will act as a welcoming team and conduct a vigil of light until leaders of the four main churches in the city and other faith groups concelebrate a short service of dedication at 9am on Sunday. Liam Milligan, of the Churches Trust, has called on the public to get involved in the Vigil of Light by contacting the Churches Trust on 02871 311 322.
The Peace Bridge is funded by the EU’s PEACE III programme under the Shared Space initiative which supports projects that bring together communities that have been formerly divided.
Here are a few hard facts about the magnificent new structure.
• The inspiration for the design of the bridge was Maurice Harron’s sculpture: ‘The hands across the divide’ - where the hands do not touch - at Carlisle Roundabout. The masts in the Peace Bridge were designed to symbolically overlap in a ‘structural handshake’.
• The bridge reaches a height of 36m and is 312m long from the West bank to the East bank while its width varies from 3.5m to 4.5m at different parts of the bridge
• It is a curved self-anchored suspension bridge, with two inclined pylons and reverse curved deck
• The bridge is anchored by 30 steel piles, each 24m long and driven into the riverbed 10m to 11m deep
• Each of the two towers or ‘spikes’ are nearly 40m long and weigh approximately 60 tonnes each
• The bridge rises 7.5m along its length from the city side to the Waterside
• The bridge weighs a total of 1,000 tones and the heaviest section weighs 120 tonnes
• 1,000 tonnes of steel was used in the construction of the Peace Bridge, the equivalent of 143 double decker buses!
• The construction team consists of: Graham of Dromore, Wilkinson Eyre, London (architects), AECOM (structural designers), and ROWECORD, Wales (steel fabrication). Graham also built the Foyle Bridge which was completed in 1984
• The steel walkway was imported from Wales. It had to be transported on special trailers and ferried across the Irish Sea
• Sections of the deck were lifted into place by a 500 tonne crane on a floating barge called the Forth Atlas
• Cameras were placed on top of the City Hotel and at Ebrington to film the construction work which began in January 2010
• The bridge is entirely symmetrical. The design serves both the city side and the Waterside but belongs to neither.
• The materials used to construct the bridge were mainly steel, stainless steel and reinforced concrete
• 40 - 50 people were employed at the peak of construction
• 387 people have been inducted to work on the project so far
• 12 people were employed as a result of social clauses written into the construction contract
• 4.5 kilometres of electric cable were laid on the bridge- enough to go around the Walls of Derry three times!
• Environmental concerns were addressed throughout the project.
Lights were designed for bat runs (using LEDs to reduce light pollution, improve visibility and reduce energy consumption) and piling was done to coincide with the salmon season
• Reinforced earth soil was used on the Ebrington embankment.
This is an environment-friendly landscaping alternative which allows the structure to be integrated into the natural environment
• The project won the Considerate Constructors Bronze Award for Performance Beyond Compliance