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Kings Avenue Overpass, Canberra, ACT, Australia

Issue 74 August / September 2013 : Architectural : Underpass


Though adopting a controversial system of uplighting, Steensen Varming’s treatment of the Kings Avenue Overpass in Canberra has turned the traffic blackspot into an accident free zone.

Canberra is often overlooked when the great planned world capitals are considered, with the laurels instead going to Haussmann’s Paris or L’Enfant’s graceful Washington D.C. In fact the layout of Walter Burley Griffin’s Canberra is similar to the look of Washington, with wide elegant boulevards arranged in triangles connecting the principle sites of each branch of the country’s government. One of these boulevards is Kings Avenue, which leads from New Parliament House across Lake Burley Griffin towards the Australian-American memorial, an eagle topped obelisk reminiscent of the Washington Memorial.

In recent times part of the road has become something of a traffic black-spot with a high number of car accidents happening at the former Russell roundabout. In 2011 the roundabout was replaced by the Kings Avenue overpass, the intersecting Parkes Way being lowered while a new bridge carried the avenue’s traffic across the gap.

Lighting is an integral part of the bridge’s identity, demonstrating the intent to blend the infrastructure into its surroundings. The lighting design, developed by Steensen Varming, turns the sculpted curved walls and tapered bridge deck slab into a unique nighttime experience, highlighting the quality of the materials used.

Unlike traditional tunnel lighting, the underpass is uniquely, and controversially lit, from the ground only, using BEGA Inground Asymmetric Linear Fluorescent luminaires, enhancing the built-form and creating a luminous floating deck while acting to enhance the gateway to Canberra.

Sleek multi-head masts produced by iGuzzini and supplied by ECC Lighting, have been used to reduce clutter on the bridge deck; the four 55-feet masts enhancing the symmetries of the bridge and minimising clutter on the deck. The solution creates an area of 100,000 square feet free of traditional lighting poles, yet it delivers a well-controlled light where it is needed. The concealed façade lighting also makes the landmark adaptable to various events and festivals.

Keeping the deck and wall surfaces free of light sources provides driving comfort and safety, a fact that has been proven by statistics that show no recorded accidents in the year since the new bridge opened, compared to an average of two accidents per week, the highest in the city, before the project was undertaken.

In addition to providing glare-free, strobe-free and shadow-free lighting, the luminaires can be maintained safely by one individual with ease, causing no disruption to traffic flow. The energy performance of the solution is also inspiring, proving indirect lighting can be environmentally sustainable.

When it came to producing environmentally sensible solutions, sustainability was approached with a holistic perspective. Rather than just considering the lighting energy, a much wider spectrum of related operational and maintenance aspects were considered.

The fuel savings and improved travel time, assisted by safer and more comfortable lighting, forms part of the overall strategy. 30% of traffic now moves unimpeded under the bridge and the underpass lighting supports this with its unobtrusive nature. The project provides a 60% reduction to travel times in peak periods, a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions and a 55% reduction in vehicle operating costs.

As well as this, wherever possible, locally made solutions have been incorporated into the project with the railings and reflectors that house the concealed bridge façade lighting being locally sourced.

The construction of the underpass has improved traffic movement and journey times, while dramatically increasing traffic, pedestrian and bicyclist safety. It has been acknowledged by the local authority that the project has enhanced Canberra with its vibrant look, lending the city a streamlined cutting edge feel that will, in time, benefit tourism and the hotel industry, especially given the bridge sits on the main route to the airport. This sustainable project enhances the urban fabric of Canberra, with a solution that elegantly fulfils complex and stringent road lighting requirements.


Brett Boardmann
<p>Brett Boardmann</p>
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