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A bridge to the dinosaurs at Crystal Palace

Fabricated by Cake Industries, hot dip galvanized by Joseph Ash Chesterfield

In 1854, a ‘Dinosaur Court’ opened on an island at Crystal Palace Park. The attraction consisted of 30 plus life-size dinosaurs, sculpted by acclaimed sculptor and natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. Described as the “birthplace of ‘Dinomania’”, the ‘Dinosaur Court has been “a symbol of British influence” ever since.

The Grade I Historic Site has been available to the public for nearly 170 years, and it needs regular care and attention with conservation monitoring, repair of the sculptures and grounds maintenance. Volunteers help, however access to the dinosaurs became challenging in 2017 when the footbridge leading to the island was removed. Something had to be done! Enter the Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, who successfully raised money through crowdfunding to reinstate a bridge. Not the same bridge as before. Instead, a new fit-for-purpose pedestrian bridge in a new location.

The structural designer for the bridge was Arup, and the architect was Tonkin Lui. Joseph Ash Chesterfield provided the steel protection. The main contractor, design collaborator and steel fabricator was Cake Industries.

Cake Industries – the bridge fabricators

Cake Industries is a design and fabrication firm that produces beautiful objects, from sculpture and staircases to bridges and small buildings. They take an idea or a set of drawings and turn it into reality, carrying out the full design (including structural engineering) and assembling the elements.

Cake Industries built the bridge in their South London workshop. Starting with precise laser-cut pieces, a female mould was used to assemble the triangular spine beam. Laser-cut combs were heated locally and bent by hand so that the shape of the deck was gradually revealed. The deck pieces were welded to the central beam before a handrail and deck mesh was attached.

The entire structure was then galvanized in one dip at Joseph Ash Chesterfield to provide a protective and decorative coating.

Installation

The new bridge was installed at Crystal Palace Park in January 2021. To protect this batch of dinosaurs from extinction, it was designed on a pivot to open or close to control traffic to the island prevent unauthorised access to the site.

Watch this short film by Cake Industries to see a timelapse of the bridge fabrication, through to hot dip galvanizing and installation. You can also see how it opens and closes.

Known affectionately as the ‘Dinosaur Bridge’, it has been an acclaimed success due to its functionality and beauty. It has also been shortlisted for the Institute of Structural Engineers 2021 Award for Pedestrian Bridges. (Good luck Cake Industries!)

Long-time partnership

Joseph Ash Galvanizing has worked on several projects for Cake Industries and each one is interesting, challenging, and exciting. (Read about some recent projects: The Living Room and The Hothouse.) A bit like the Crystal Palace dinosaurs, our company also started life in the 1850’s, so we were delighted to assist with this project!

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If you’d like to see the ‘Dinosaur Court’ and the Dinosaur Bridge, visit the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs website. For more pictures of the bridge visit Cake Industries and The Trianglese blog.

(Photos by James Balston)

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