Fabulous use of bridge abutments. Road engineers and Urban Design.


bridge abutment design

space along road

The fabulous use of bridge abutments in the UK and Europe always amazes me. In Australia these spaces are dead. Abutments in Australia are usually home to the hardiest of Australian plants and acres of weed mat and not much else. A very inhospitable landscape.  The top picture above is Richmond Bridge UK.  The second photo is the eastern freeway in Melbourne. While the two urban conditions are different it should at least give some idea as to how much Australian land is dedicated to the road beyond the actual asphalt surface.

In the urban areas of the UK rather than having acres of ‘dead’ space adjacent to the road corridor this area is functional.

In the cramped conditions of London I see bridge abutments used extremely well.  Traffic moves a lot slower in London and spaces in-between the roads are used to the maximum. Granted the road corridors in Australia  provide habitat but its not really quality habitat. And the habitat is only allowed cause the road engineers are obsessed with ensuring there are no obstacles for poeple to run into when they come flying off the road at 100km an hour.

I would like to see a group of aussie road engineers and UK road engineers compare notes. Really Australian and American road engineers have more influence over urban design than any UK architect or landscape architect could hope for.

outdoor furniture

tables outside


  1. I think you need to compare apples with apples. Melbourne looks just like the photos of London. The eastern freeway is also some 20 years old in design.

    Also it is very hard to grow plants on a rock face.

    Those cars are also photoshopped. It is normally packed with us Aussies riding our kangaroos to work.

  2. thanks for your comments.

    The section of the Eastern freeway was opened in 1977 and Richmond London was built 1777. And?

    yes you are right it is hard to grow plants on a rock face! And?

    Yes Melbourne has a few examples of creative use of bridge abutments but most are inhospitable landscapes.

    I feel very confident in saying that the road corridor in Australia (when compared to Europe and UK) takes up an enormous amount of land and prohibits the use of functional spaces.

    Having said that you are right. The two pictures do not compare apples with apples.

    I also think the road corridor in Melbourne (since the 1990s) has got very exciting in Melbourne (eg eastern freeway noisewalls by Wood Marsh, Western Ring Road, etc). But that is only because so much bluddy land is taken by the road engineers in the first place.

    I also give the UK road authority are hard time too. check out this article.

    I suppose my whole position is this: roads are a powerful land use that shapes our use of space – often people are unware that this happening- and the people in control of this situation (road authorites) often have no idea what impact they are having.