Safe, secure access to the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs is vital for conservation monitoring, repair of the sculptures and grounds maintenance to protect this magnificent Grade-1 listed historic site. As a local heritage asset we are also keen to enhance volunteer and outreach opportunities. All this was made significantly more challenging when the original bridge to the islands was removed in 2017.
In 2018 Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs launched a successful Crowdfund London effort to raise money to reinstate a bridge to the Dinosaurs islands. It has been supported by the council, the Mayor of London, numerous professional societies, historical societies, working specialists including many conservators and over 600 individual contributors.
We have worked with architects Tonkin Liu, engineers Arup and metal fabricators Cake Industries to design a beautiful and fit-for-purpose pedestrian bridge. We have support from the park’s landowner, London Borough of Bromley (LBB), and Historic England (HE), for the project and for our current design. We also ran a public consultation on the designs for the bridge and held several events to present designs and gather feedback.
We will reinstate a secure, lockable bridge to the Dinosaur islands. We have selected the new location to the south of the site as being more sympathetic to the landscape, logistically easier and more appropriate to the narrative of the geological walk through time. The previous bridge location is no longer easily accessible due to the new weir and interferes with the landscape views.
Maintenance and conservation work is the priority for access using the bridge. Public access will only be in tours and escorted by responsible parties such as volunteer sessions. It will not be continuously open.
The bridge is constructed on a pivot to open and connect or close and disconnect. There will be strict rules (covenants) on when the bridge can be opened to limit numbers and avoid further damage to the sculptures. Historic England, Bromley (LBB), GLA and IDverde, the park maintenance contractor, will ensure there is enforceable control over security and access.
Our public information banners with more details on the bridge design are below or you can access a higher resolution pdf here.
You can also see slides from Tonkin Liu architect Matthew Burnett’s presentation on the bridge design here.
If you still have further questions we have addressed some common FAQs at the bottom of the page that will hopefully provide information you need.
Update: please note the consultation and opportunity for feedback is now closed. Thank you, we are very grateful for your participation.
In November 2019 we were thrilled to receive unanimous approval of the bridge design from Bromley Borough Council’s Planning Committee, with the Chair remarking that she’d never seen an application in which every interested party supported the proposal. We are so grateful for all the positive feedback we received during the consultation.
We are very excited to have Sydenham-based company Cake Industries tasked with bringing the bridge designs to life. Local photographer James Balston has been documenting their work. Read all about progress here.
Cake industries has also released a beautiful time lapse video of the bridge’s construction:
In June 2020 the London Festival of Architecture hosted Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, Tonkin Liu, Arup and Cake industries in a discussion on the process of bringing the Bridge Project to life:
What will the bridge be made of and how will it be finished?
The bridge will be laser cut steel, using techniques that minimise material use and maximise strength. The surface will be galvanised, which gives a weather-proof surface and won’t need additional maintenance. You can see illustrations on the banners, and also in the architect’s slide presentation, available on this webpage.
The design won a coveted prize at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition for Architectural and Engineering excellence for use of materials. You can see the model on display until 12 August.
How strong will the bridge be?
The bridge is engineered to support design load of 2kPa, this is equivalent to approximately 25 people walking across it. The strength modelling has been done by the bridge team at Arup, a global engineering company that have built bridges around the world. They are supporting our project with pro bono contribution of their expertise.
Will the bridge facilitate vandals accessing the islands?
When the bridge is in its closed, or unconnected orientation, it will be locked and can’t be moved. By having no connections to the shore when closed, it minimises chances for transgressions. Alternative designs for a bridge that is both securable and accessible are shown in the architect’s slides. We decided a swing bridge was best for this site.
The islands are difficult to make completely inaccessible, but by providing an access that is obviously either ‘open’ or ‘closed’ the message is clearer that unauthorised access is trespassing. We’d like to underscore if trespassers cause damage to the historic site, it is a criminal offence.
Will the bridge be a target for vandals?
Because the bridge has many relatively slender ribs, it doesn’t provide a good canvas for vandals to paint. If it is defaced, the surface can be cleaned readily. The ribs are formed of 10mm thick steel and cannot be bent by hand.
Will the bridge allow disabled access to the islands?
The bridge will be safe for disabled people to cross, however the islands themselves are extremely steep and rocky. We will not be able to change the landforms as they are a protected Grade 1 historic listing. Access will be only as a ‘behind-the-scenes’ experience in closely supervised groups. We are finding ways to bring the experience of the Dinosaurs ‘to the mainland’ in the future. We have undertaken 3D scanning of the sculptures for up-close interpretation experiences for people who can’t get on to the islands.
Who will own and be responsible for the bridge?
Once built, the bridge will be part of the historic site, owned and maintained by London Borough of Bromley. Current access is made available to IDVerde (the park maintenance company) and Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs.
Can I visit?
Yes! We will work closely with Historic England to manage the bridge access to the Dinosaur Islands. The new bridge will allow more public access for guided tours and volunteering activities such as our Palaeo Planting project. We anticipate being able to host at least a tour day each month, with up to 20 people on each tour.
What is the expected date of completion?
We are working towards an installation date of late October - November. We will have an official opening celebration widely advertised on social media.
What maintenance is needed?
The pivot mechanism will require biannual greasing. This kind of mechanism is common in engineering applications and does not need much attention, nor is it expensive. The bridge will also need sweeping of debris that may gather, for example fallen leaves.
However, the landscapes do need more regular maintenance, and the bridge will facilitate that. With the bridge, grounds work can be done more reliably on the Dinosaur Islands. We also hope the bridge will impel the park owners to have the waterways dredged. This needs to be done every 5-6 years.
Have Historic England and other historic and local organisations approved the bridge?
We have developed the plans for the bridge in line with input and enthusiastic support from Historic England. It meets their criterion of highest quality design to complement historic sites, and they are helping to guide the production of new management and access plans. All statutory consultees were invited to engage with our plans and provide input. So far we have positive support from the Victorian Society, the Norwood Society, the Crystal Palace Park Trust, the Crystal Palace Community Association, the Friends of Crystal Palace Park and Crystal Palace Transition Town.
Could you use the money for something else?
No. The funds raised were all specifically for re-instating a bridge to the islands. In official terms they are ‘restricted funds’, earmarked for this purpose only.
Moreover, to raise the significant funds needed for conservation work, we need to show that the site is reliably accessible. We also want to increase the first-hand, up-close experiences for volunteers, visitors and school children. This is the foundation of a ‘virtuous circle’ where the local, personal love for the site translates to more support from funders, which again gives better experiences for fans of the Dinosaurs.
Will my reply make a difference? What happens with the consultation responses?
Yes! Your reply will make a big difference, as it shows the level of community interest in the site. We include the responses in our planning application to the council. We will address any comments in our submission to the council, and they will consider whether they agree the project is a benefit to the site and the community.