There’s no denying that some old remnants of the past have had their day and would be improved no end by the attentions of a bulldozer, but that’s certainly not the case with the Sandridge rail bridge on Melbourne’s Yarra River. It’s a solid, if not exactly pretty, example of Victorian engineering, but the bridge was languishing in obsolescence until being converted to a footbridge, cycle path and art display platform in 2006.
The Sandridge bridge was part of Melbourne’s cultural landscape in a different way this month when it was integrated into a floating pop-up kitchen, bar and raingarden moored on the Yarra during Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. This year the event’s theme was water, and the bridge formed the third tier to the specially built hub called The Immersery. Architecture outfit HASSELL designed each of the levels to represent a stage of the water cycle, and the bridge was transfigured by a cloud-like canopy to symbolize the sky. The HASSELL folks fitted together a clever frame of pipes to both support the material and transport water; all the materials (including the pipes) used to make this green-thinking venue were salvaged or recycled.
As the bar and open kitchen floated below, the spectacular raingarden – darned ambitious considering its short lifespan – was the festival’s crowning glory. Just goes to show that with the right creative brains on the job and a will to support conservation, even the most unprepossessing heritage landmarks can still play their part in contemporary city life.