Project Details

Client: Private (The Emily Estate Project)
Category: Bridges
Location: Somerset, UK
Architect: mta, (Mark Thomas Architects) in collaboration with HF
Completed: 2019


The Viper is a tree canopy walkway snaking through a forest at the Newt in Somerset, UK, a country estate with splendid gardens and woodland. The steel structure with timber decking is 130m long and mostly 1.5 m wide, with a wider section for visitors to linger and admire the views, flora and fauna. The columns are at 10 m centres and up to 12 m high. They are star-shaped, delicate at the top and tapering wider to the bottom, where they are fixed onto tripod arms.

The three arm ends are supported on steel piles anchored into the earth at points carefully chosen to avoid the tree roots. Not a single tree in the forest was affected. The bridge structure consists of a central box section spine beam, connected to box section outer beams at a raised level with profile cut plate ribs to form a triangulated truss. The thin profile cut stanchions and the handrail do not contribute to the spanning strength. The columns and superstructure were built in Cape Town and taken to site in the UK in containers, whilst the bespoke tripods supporting the columns were fabricated in the UK.

Their leg lengths, end levels, and angle all vary to fit exactly onto piles as installed on site, ready for the columns to be bolted on in exact positions. All the components of the walkway were meticulously sculpted by Henry and Mark to achieve a delicate, organic shape. The outer shape of the stanchions, box sections and plate ribs forms one continuous curve. The lower end of the walkway widens to form a deck area that connects it to the Garden Museum. The Viper is bound to provide tremendous pleasure for thousands of visitors to the Newt, for many years to come.

Awards Won

2019 SAISC Steel Awards Commendation Bridge Category

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