Learning from nature to empower structure

17 June 2020

17:30 -18:20

Later this year a new pedestrian bridge to provide secure access to the world’s first dinosaur statues will open at London’s Crystal Palace Park. Created by sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, who stressed the need for ‘visual education’, the dinosaurs are the birthplace of democratisation of scientific knowledge.

Built in the 1850s, the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs are of global heritage value and a beloved symbol of the local area. Located on Dinosaur Island, the Grade I listed structures are only partially conserved, with many in a perilous state of dilapidation, effectively facing a 'second extinction'. Safe and secure access to the concrete sculptures is fundamental for conservation monitoring, repair and grounds maintenance. Public engagement includes guided tours, schools experiences and a volunteer Palaeo Planting project to restore the tableaux of a 400 million years walk through geologic time. The original bridge was removed in 2017 so Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs (FCPD) instigated a campaign to build a new bridge that would facilitate restoration and open up the island as an educational resource.

The new swing bridge, which will provide safe and secure access to the Grade I listed site, is a result of a collaboration between architect Tonkin Liu, charity FCPD, structural engineer Arup and metal fabricator Cake Industries. As with all Tonkin Liu schemes, the swing bridge is guided by a storytelling methodology that seeks to make the project unique to the circumstances of place, people and time. Inspired by nature, the design for the skeletal structure is reminiscent of the strength and beauty of early fishes. This grew out Tonkin Liu’s knowledge of Shell Lace Structure, a biometric technique developed through many years of practice-based research with leading scientists at the Natural History Museum and the support of engineers at Arup.

On Wednesday 17 June 2020 Mike Tonkin (Tonkin Liu), Ellinor Michel (FCPD & NHM), Stuart Chambers (ARUP) and David Knight (Cake Industries) will talk about the history of the iconic site, the learning potential for design and architecture from nature and natural forms and how this project will help to bring the story of science and its artistic representation to life.