Thursday, 4 March 2010

Pukeko Bridge – Jeff Wells, Jasmax


If you’ve travelled north of Auckland over summer, you can’t have missed this delightfully engaging bridge over the new toll road, a bridge that acts as a gateway to “the winterless north”—a sign for Aucklanders that now you’re really on holiday.

40082563_Pukeko And what’s almost as delightful as the bridge itself has been the positive reaction to it, so much so that the bureaucratically named ‘Hillcrest Road Bridge’ soon earned itself the more evocative handle ‘The Pukeko Bridge’—for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who’s ever enjoyed the local ‘swamp-hen.’

Pukeko002 Designed by architect Jeff Wells of Jasmax, who developed a love of bridges over the course of his career which he’s now being allowed to blossom forth, the bridge reflects (to some extent) the property rights of the land-owner whose land was cut in two for the toll road to be built is designed – it links the two halves of his property so his cattle can make the journey from one paddock to another.

That’s quirky enough for some, but combine that with the apparent droop of the road -– which simply follows the original contours of the ground before the road cutting was made, allowing the bridge deck to be formed as the cut  was being made -– and the spindly bright “red legs,” and you’ve got a quiet achievement here that’s worth celebrating: a bridge on NZ’s highway system with character.

Up to now, that’s been a very rare thing

But it looks like, as long as Jeff Well’s career lasts, it might be happening more frequently.

Read about him and his bridges here.  And see more photos of the bridge here at Flickr.


  1. That's a beautiful bridge. I went pass it on the way to Whagaumu the other week.

    Is bridge design a domain of civil engineering or architecture ? Or is it a combination of both?

    Here is an interesting article on the use of finite element analysis (FEA) for improving bridge design.

    Improving Bridge Performance with Finite Element Analysis

    FEA is a domain well-known to physicists & engineers for structural design & fluid-flow modeling, but do architects use them in their structural design work (bridge, etc...)?

  2. The money was thrown at this project as the then Transit wanted its first "modern" toll road to be a showpiece of engineering design.

  3. @Liberty Scott: Still, there's no denying the success.

    @FF: Architects (some of them) know what Finite Element Analysis is. Mind you, few would know (or remember) how to do it, or need to.

  4. Architects decide what form the bridge will take. Engineers make it do what it is supposed to do (not fall down).

    Both would say they design it!

    Engineers use finite element analysis for bridge design.

  5. I read or heard somewhere that the "farmer" in question is in fact a property developer that will now have this bridge as excess to (part of) the land, and all at taxpayers' costs. Some names and details may be revealing at some point. That of course doesn't affect the design quality of the thing.

  6. PC: Indeed, one of the better trends has been a deliberate interest in design beyond simple utility. It makes a considerable difference to construction that will last many decades.

    The converse was the cheap and nasty way the Westway was designed and built in London. Nothing like building an elevated motorway feet away from bedroom windows so that it provokes so much outrage that it effectively halts new motorway construction in London for good.

  7. She is a beauty. Good work Mr Wells.


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