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Tintagel Castle: Bridge design competition launched

Inspired team sought for structurally-daring clifftop footbridge

© Malcolm Reading Consultants / Emily Whitfield-Wicks

English Heritage (EH) and Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC) today launched the Tintagel Castle: Bridge Design Competition.

The international, two-stage design competition seeks an inspired and dedicated team, comprising both architectural and engineering expertise, for the circa £4m bridge project.

One of the most spectacular historic sites within English Heritage’s care and inextricably linked to the legend of King Arthur, Tintagel Castle in north Cornwall has been prized throughout history for its elemental beauty and spirit of place. The ruins of the 13th-century castle are an outstanding example of a man-made monument interacting with a natural feature – the narrow land-bridge, much eroded over the centuries, linking the headland (or Island) with the mainland.

The new footbridge will be 28 metres higher than the current crossing and 72 metres in span. It will open up exhilarating views of Tintagel, the surrounding coastline and Atlantic seascape as it traces the path, now lost through collapse and erosion, of the original land-link. It is expected to transform the visitor experience, improving both visitors’ understanding of the site and access.

English Heritage envisages an elegant, even structurally daring, concept which is beautiful in its own right and sensitively-balanced with the landscape and exceptional surroundings – Tintagel Castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument lying within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Kate Mavor, chief executive of English Heritage, said:

‘Tintagel Castle is one of the most spectacular historic sites in Britain. In our new role as a charity, we are looking for new, imaginative ways to interpret the sites in our care and inspire our visitors – this competition and this bridge forms part of that approach. We are looking for a design team that will connect deeply with Tintagel Castle, both its landscape and its history, to deliver something special.’

Graham Morrison, jury chair and founding partner of Allies and Morrison, commented:

‘This fascinating project is all about creating a design which complements the landscape and its important archaeology. This is a challenging environment with access constraints, and a credible construction methodology will be vital to any proposed design’s success at the second stage of the competition.’

Malcolm Reading, architect and competition organiser, said:

‘This is a rare opportunity to design for a highly-sensitive and protected location and make a lasting cultural contribution which enhances the pleasure of arrival, the pleasure in connecting with Tintagel Castle’s unique spirit of place.’

The new bridge will not only transform physical access but also rationalise routes around the site. It will allow visitors to experience the historic approach and entrance to the castle’s inner bailey, and enable stories of the Dark-Age and medieval development of the site to be vividly brought to life.

One of English Heritage’s most popular sites, Tintagel Castle attracts circa 200,000 visitors a year, up to three thousand per day in the peak summer season. Nearly a third of current visitors come from overseas and Tintagel’s profile is growing both nationally and internationally.

To read the detailed brief and enter the competition, competitors will need to visit the competition website.

The competition is being run in accordance with European Union procurement guidelines under the Restricted Procedure. Multi-disciplinary teams with expertise in contemporary design and engineering are invited to enter providing they can satisfy the criteria in the Expression of Interest document available through the competition website. No design is sought at the first stage of the competition.

The competition jury includes: Graham Morrison (chair), founding Partner, Allies and Morrison; the Reverend Peter Beacham OBE, former English Heritage Protection Director and author; Ben Bolgar, Senior Design Director, The Prince’s Foundation; Sir Barrington Cunliffe CBE, Emeritus Professor of European Archaeology, University of Oxford; Anna Eavis, Curatorial Director, English Heritage; Philip Marsden, award-winning author of Rising Ground (2014) and The Levelling Sea (2011); Roger Ridsdill Smith, Senior Partner and Structural Engineer, Foster+Partners; Tracey Wahdan, Historic Properties Director, English Heritage and Kim Wilkie, Landscape Architect. Malcolm Reading will advise the jury.

The deadline for expressions of interest is Tuesday 21 July 2015, the shortlist for the second stage will be announced in August and, following a public exhibition of the shortlisted entries, the winning team is expected to be announced in early 2016.

English Heritage is also launching several new interpretation initiatives for the castle and Island from summer 2015 where the history, archaeology and mythology of Tintagel are re-explored both within the visitor centre and across the wider landscape of the site so that visitors can absorb Tintagel’s fascinating history and cultural legacy.