Tourists visiting Tower Bridge can see a unique view of the bridge mechanism and road below – through two new glass walkway floors 42m above the River Thames.
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 11.5m 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.
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.”
It took eight years, five major contractors and the relentless labour of 432 construction workers to build Tower Bridge, which was completed in 1892. 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 described as ‘the most significant change’ to the exhibition since it first opened in 1982.