REVEALED today are the raw materials for an eighth bridge across the River Tyne – 20 tonnes of special bamboo from China.
In the year the Tyne Bridge turns 80, a company called Bambuco has been commissioned to create a new landmark structure spanning the river.
Appropriately, Bambuco is based in Australia – home of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, a Tyne Bridge lookalike.
The bamboo suspension bridge will be situated between the Tyne and Gateshead Millennium bridges but, unlike the permanent structures, it will cross the river at a slight angle.
It will have one foot near the law courts on the Newcastle bank and one near HMS Calliope on the Gateshead bank.
At 120m long and 25m high, the Bambuco bridge promises to provide an unrepeatable photo opportunity during its short life.
The details were supplied by Anna Cordingley, the Melbourne-based artistic director of Bambuco, who was on Tyneside this week to make final preparations for a very intricate construction job.
She said: “We did an enormous installation in Lille, in France, for their Capital of Culture year four years ago and it was built on similar principles.
“But this will be the most challenging project in terms of its engineering.”
Anna said company founder Simon Barley had been struck by the fact that 200 years of engineering expertise could be seen in the seven existing bridges over the Tyne.
He had been persuaded to look at the River Tyne as the site for a Bambuco construction by Stella Hall, creative director of NewcastleGateshead Initiative, when the pair met in Berlin.
But after visiting Tyneside and being enthused by the river location, he died suddenly last August at the age of 50, leaving others to put his plans into action.
Anna said Bambuco staff had already toyed with the idea of calling the bamboo bridge the Bridge of Si’s, a play on Venice’s famous Bridge of Sighs.
She said Bambuco had been in existence for 10 years but was the brainchild of Barley and the structures he used to make as a youngster in his parents’ garden.
He spent much of his life in the Australian desert location of Natimuk and frequently enlisted the help of climbers attracted by a local giant rock to create his bamboo structures. An international team of about 11 will gather on Tyneside to build the bamboo bridge, starting at the end of June when the first of the 800 giant bamboo poles will be hauled into place.
Nobody will be allowed to cross the bridge, which is due for completion on July 18 when it will be lit up and serenaded with a programme of music.
It is due to be in place for three days only, marking the first weekend of SummerTyne, NewcastleGateshead’s festival of music and art.
Previous Bambuco works have appeared in Moscow, Berlin, London and Manila. “Not so much in Australia, though,” said Anna. “I think we’re more geared up to sport.”