Glassolutions creates glass walkways for Tower Bridge
Tourists visiting Tower Bridge can see a unique view of the bridge mechanism and road below – through two new glass walkway floors 42 metres above the River Thames.
The UK’s largest processor, distributor, installer and repairer of glass and glass systems Glassolutions won the £250,000 contract to design and manufacture the (one-way) glass, which has been inserted into the floor of each of the two 11.5 metre long walkways on the Grade I listed building.
The existing floors were removed and a steel frame was installed into which the new 80mm thick glass floor panels, comprising seven layers of glass capable of withstanding the weight of six elephants, were inserted.
The glass specification was developed to accommodate major external forces such as wind loading and the potential impact should a passing vessel strike the walkways. Equally important though was consideration of internal impacts on the glass floors and how to design-in a way to easily repair any damage that results from the heavy footfall of 600,000+ visitors a year.
The solution developed by Glassolutions was to incorporate a top “sacrificial” layer of glass into the panels. This can be replaced quickly and easily should any damage occur – including the minor scratches and scuff marks that are inevitable over time – without affecting the structural integrity of the floor.
This innovative design has already demonstrated its value with a breakage in one of the panels occurring when a heavy item was accidentally dropped during the new venue’s opening fortnight. Glassolutions was able to respond immediately and replace the sacrificial layer from stocked spare glass panes within 48 hours to help the venue get back to full operation quickly. It did its job perfectly in that it prevented any cosmetic damage to the main structural part of the glass floor, which in a conventional design would have been far more costly and time-consuming to replace.
Chris Earlie, business manager at Tower Bridge said: “There has never been anything as big as this for Tower Bridge in terms of development, and in terms of future-proofing in the exhibition. We were really confident with the solution that Glassolutions presented and we’re really happy with the outcome. On the basis of this project, I would have nothing but glowing reports on Glassolutions. I would definitely, definitely recommend them.”
Simon Carin, managing director of Glassolutions, which is part of the international Saint-Gobain group said: “The glass walkways are designed to enhance this already stunning visitor attraction and have certainly created a new talking point. This project is similar to the glass floor installations Saint-Gobain has been involved with at the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Spinnaker Tower view decks in Portsmouth. It’s a privilege to be part of such a landmark project and we’re delighted that our expertise has made it possible.”
With a wide variety of events and functions held on the walkways, another dimension to the glass panel design was to maintain privacy for venue users when necessary to prevent prying eyes from the passing traffic and pedestrians on the bridge below. The clever panel design allows for this too, which means Glassolutions can replace the top layer of glass at any point to incorporate a privacy feature – and remove just as easily.
Tower Bridge is owned by the Bridge House Estate and managed by the City of London. It took eight years, five major contractors and the relentless labour of 432 construction workers to build Tower Bridge, which was completed in 1892. It was opened on 30 June 1894 by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII).
Tower Bridge Exhibition tells the history of the bridge through animations and displays, across its towers, high-level panoramic walkways and the atmospheric Victorian Engine Rooms. The installation of the glass walkways is the most significant change to the Exhibition since it first opened in 1982.