Originally opened in June 2000 then closed almost immediately due to structural problems, London’s modern Millennium Bridge is now a favorite with locals and tourists alike.
A New Bridge
London’s Southwark Council sponsored a competition in 1996 to choose the designer of a new Millennium Footbridge that would span the Thames River between the Southwark Bridge and the Blackfriars Bridge. This would be the first bridge built across the Thames River since the building of the magnificent Tower Bridge in 1894 and was to be a part of the city’s millennium celebration.
The winning entry, a suspension bridge, was tagged “the blade of light” and was designed by Arup, Foster and Partners and Sir Anthony Caro.
This footbridge would stretch a total of 325 meters (about 1,066 feet) and would include supporting cables below the deck level in order to preserve the view of several landmarks on either side. The design allowed for a four-meter-wide (13.5 feet) deck for walkers, and the structure was designed to hold five thousand pedestrians at any given time.
Construction of the bridge began in late 1998 and was completed in June 2000, about two months behind schedule. The total cost to build the bridge was £18.2m or about €30 million (at the time 1 euro was approx. 1 US dollar).
The Wobbly Bridge
Unfortunately, during the first two days that the structure was open, the thousands that crossed it noticed that the Millennium Bridge seemed to wobble. It was quickly nicknamed “The Wobbly Bridge” or “The Wibbly-Wobbly” and was immediately closed for modifications, just three days after it opened.
Modifications succeeded in entirely eliminating the problem, but those necessary modifications caused the bridge to remain closed until February 2002. It cost an additional £5m to complete the changes, but no significant vibrations have been felt since that time.
The Millennium Bridge connects two tourist areas across the Thames river. The southern end of the gently swooping suspension bridge is located near the new Globe Theater and the Tate Modern Museum. The northern end sits near London’s imposing St. Paul’s Cathedral. Pedestrians can gain a wonderful view of the cathedral’s dome from the bridge, and the sight is especially marvelous at night. The Tower Bridge, London’s most famous bridge, and the Shard, the city’s tallest building, are also clearly visible from here.