The Gateshead Millennium Bridge is a pedestrian and cyclist tilt bridge spanning the River Tyne in England between Gateshead on the south bank, and Newcastle upon Tyne on the north bank. The award-winning structure was conceived and designed by architects Wilkinson Eyre and structural engineers Gifford.
The bridge was lifted into place in one piece by the Asian Hercules II, one of the world's largest floating cranes, on 20 November 2000. It was opened to the public on 17 September 2001, and was dedicated by Queen Elizabeth II on 7 May 2002. The bridge, which cost £22m to build, was part funded by the Millennium Commission and European Regional Development Fund. It was built by Volker Stevin.
Already acclaimed worldwide for its physical and aesthetic beauty, it has fast become a significant tourist attraction in its own right. The bridge was the focus of a Spencer Tunick installation on 17 July 2005.
Six 45 cm diameter Hydraulic rams (three on each side, each powered by a 55 kW electric motor) rotate the bridge back on large bearings to allow small ships and boats (up to 25 m tall) to pass underneath. The bridge takes as little as 4.5 minutes to rotate through the full 40° from closed to open, depending on wind speed. Its appearance during this manoeuvre has led to it being nicknamed the "Blinking Eye Bridge".
The bridge has operated reliably since construction, opening to allow river traffic to pass. It also opens periodically for sightseers and for major events such as the Northumbrian Water University Boat Race and the Cutty Sark Tall Ships' Race. Its reputation was untarnished until October 2004 when the failure of a £200 circuit board prevented the bridge from opening.
The construction of the bridge won the architects Wilkinson Eyre the 2002 Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Stirling Prize and won Gifford the 2003 IStructE Supreme Award. In winning the Stirling Prize, Wilkinson Eyre became the first, and so far the only, firm of architects to retain British architecture's most prestigious prize — they won the 2001 prize for the Magna Science Adventure Centre. In 2005, the bridge received the Outstanding Structure Award from International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering.
* Cost: GBP £22 million
* Weight: 850 tonnes
* Height: 50 m
* Width: 126 m