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Elegance meets form and function


V&A Waterfront Swing Bridge


South Africa

A new landmark pedestrian swing bridge for South Africa’s oldest working harbour

Situated in South Africa’s oldest working harbour, the V&A Waterfront is a mixed-use development, offering visitors a world-class experience when it comes to entertainment, shopping, dining and accommodation. The existing pedestrian swing bridge, carrying up to 2.4-million people per year, could no longer cope with the rising foot traffic. To keep pace with demand, a new, wider bridge was commissioned.

The challenge

SMEC South Africa’s Structures team was engaged by V&A Waterfront Holdings (Pty) Ltd as the lead design firm and structural engineers for the replacement of its old swing bridge.

The challenge set by our client was that the new bridge had to be equally quick and efficient, effective and reliable as the existing bridge. Its construction cost had to be within a tight budget; and the works had to limit disruption to the public, the harbour and the environment.

Leveraging technical expertise to identify fit for purpose solutions

After working through various options, the design team determined that a swing bridge would be the best solution in terms of operational speed and energy.

Both steel and Fibre Reinforced Polymer (FRP) were considered at the early stages of the project. However, as the design progressed the use of steel was obvious. A slew bearing option was preferred as it was considered to offer a more sustainable solution.

The slew bearing and hydraulic motors are in a plant room, created by the pile cap ring. By forming the pile cap in this way, it was possible to house the mechanics within the depth of the foundations. This reduced the required excavation depth and kept the foundations above sea level, which was advantageous from a durability perspective.

“The bridge’s integrated form is simple and unique. It is no more nor less than it needs to be, which gives it an elegance that is hoped will be timeless. It serves as an important link and is considered a positive landmark for both the V&A Waterfront and Cape Town.”
– John Anderson (SMEC Functional General Manager, Structures)

Industry recognises outstanding project outcomes

The project, which was delivered within very tight commercial and time constraints, was split into two stages to ensure that construction works did not run into the V&A’s peak periods. The piling works were first built under one contract and then buried in sand and the area re-paved until the superstructure contract was activated the following year.

In 2020, the project was named joint winner in the Technical Excellence category of the South African Institute of Civil Engineering (SAICE) National Awards, 2020. It also won both the Bridges category and was recognised as the Overall Winner (across all categories) at the Southern African Institute of Steel Construction (SAISC) Steel Awards, 2020.