Work in Progress - Te Hokinga Mai (The Bridge of Return), Caroline Robinson, New Zealand

The profiles of the Architects and Designers featured on Domain Design showcase completed projects, however, it is also fascinating to observe works in progress. They invariably showcase the latest style trends, products, construction methodologies and initiatives in sustainability. They also provide an invaluable insight into the mechanics of a project and a keen appreciation of what it takes to deliver a project. 


Here is a remarkable project, the Albany Lakes Art Bridge, known as Te Hokinga Mai (The Bridge of Return). This project was realized by a large team including New Zealand Artist Caroline Robinson.  The dynamic union of art, design, engineering and construction which informed this project represents the kind of collaboration about which Caroline is passionate.


Click on the image to view a two minute slide show of the design and construction process compiled by Caroline as an acknowledgement and celebration of the collaborative effort. As with all construction projects of this scale, the bridge project involved many, many people over many years. Caroline wishes to thank the team and, in particular, extend her deep gratitude to North Shore City Council, the Albany Community, Soul Environments, Beca Infrastructure, NZ Strong Ltd, Proicere and Dr Arnold Manaaki Wilson.



The Albany Lakes Art Bridge, located at Civic Crescent, North Shore City, Albany, New Zealand, expresses the desire to create a space for reflection. It is more than just a physical connection between the retail shops and future high rise developments. On an axis of north, south, east and west, the bridge is an intersection of the raw elements, alive in the ebb and flow of opposites - water and stone, black and white, light and shadow, night and day, known and unknown.


Reflecting the conglomerate of stones bedded in Albany’s land and creeks nearby, we introduced 150 million year old Jurassic conglomerate rocks and greywacke river stones to anchor the bridge in the steadiness of local geology, partnered with black and white granites, etched limestone, red and gold travertine. Being present in our relationship to this stone, to this land and these waters, we are enlivened and refreshed.




The Albany Lakes Art Bridge was a collaboration of art, engineering, design and construction. It features prominently in the Albany Lakes Reserve, a new 6 hectare civic park in Albany, North Shore City. The bridge spans 57 metres over upper and lower stormwater lakes which cover 3.5 hectares of the 6 hectare reserve. It provides a key pedestrian link north to south through the reserve, connecting the Westfield Retail and Entertainment Centre and the future planned Main Street (shops, entertainment, businesses and residential).


The reserve and bridge were officially opened by His Worship Mayor Andrew Williams on 5 November 2009.



Bridge Structure

This stone pathway is a minimal structure which draws a clean line across the top of the 4.5 metre high stone faced bund which separates the twin lakes. The bridge is a post tensioned concrete slab dressed with granite and limestone. It stretches 57 metres between concrete reinforced abutments at the lake edges and is supported by five bored piles reaching 20-25 metres down to Waitemata sandstone. Granite posts (1100mm high x 120mm x 120mm and spaced 100mm apart) stretch along the western edge of the deck, creating a dramatic feature whilst performing the function of a balustrade.


West elevation

A beautiful collection of ochre stained greywacke river stone is laid across the across the full 980sqm face of the bund. 13 Jurassic conglomerate boulders (1.5 - 4.5m3) form a strong east–west axis line connecting the bund with the lake floor. The upper lake waters flow over the reinforced concrete weir at a section under the central bridge platform. As the upper lake levels rise in flood times, water will flow over the entire length of the bund. With the changing water flows, the large boulders will be covered and revealed by the ‘tides’.


Central Platform

The 5.5 metre wide deck is dressed with 110mm-220mm wide bands of limestone pavers, stretching from one side of the deck to the other in alternating hues and textures. The circular platform at the bridge centre provides a space of contemplation and rendezvous, poised over moving water with uplifting views across the lakes and park. The platform surface features a red and gold travertine swirl detail, and a central cast glass disc.  These warm colours highlight the naturally occurring colours of Albany’s iron salted earth. Elegant feature post ‘antennae’ stretch high above the bridge, to the east (conglomerate pebble aggregate concrete, with a vertical red cast glass tile strip) and to the west (tapered, coiled steel). Together they draw attention to the central platform and play a role as receptors and transmitters.


East Elevation

The eastern edge of the bridge deck tapers to just 200mm thick and canter-levers a mere 1 meter above the upper lake water level. The hand sculpted steel balustrade is a sinuous, character rich feature, continuous along the length of the bridge. Its finish is a unique hot dip galvanised patina. The balustrade features a coiled steel bar handrail, and a linear box housing continuous LED lighting that washes the deck with white light at night.


Light and Shadow

During the day, shadows cast from the steel balustrade and granite balustrade, create a dynamic texture across the limestone paving. Long shadows from the antennae likewise add a dynamic aspect to the geometry of the bridge. At night the bridge comes to life with continuous lighting both under and on top of the bridge deck. The bridge appears to float on light.



The aesthetics and material used on the bridge are conceived to be in harmony with elements within the surrounding park. The granite post balustrade continues both north and south beyond the bridge abutments, anchoring the bridge into the wider context.






North Shore City Council Parks Department

            Julie Pickering

            Martyn van Jaarsveld



Proicere Limited

            Andrew Rutledge


            Andrew Collow

            Hamish Joyce

            Matthew Whitehead



Caroline Robinson, Artist

Soul Environments

            Catherine Hamilton

            Frazer Baggaley

Beca Infrastructure

            Will Pank

            Andrew Ball

            Greg Williams

            Nigel Mather

            Mary Wood

            Roddy Copeland

Light Works Ltd

            Richard Bracebridge

Dr. Arnold Manaaki Wilson

Ian Vincent

Greg Smith Glass

Mike Smith

European Ceramics and Stone Ltd

            Jason McGranaghan

Auckland Stone Masons Ltd

            Len Lavas

Springbank General Metalwork

            Dave Watts

WT Partnership

            Roger Onion

Karen Blair Consultants

            Karen Blair



NZ Strong Construction Ltd

            Shane Brealey

            Rob Jones

            Craig Atkinson

            Stephen Brown

            Andrew Hollow

            Benji Potvin

            Megan Roberts

            Paddy Molloy

            Rochelle Nicolson

Dempsey and Wood Civil Contractors Ltd

            Mike Prime

GHP Piling

Calibre Engineering NZ Ltd

            Jim Rowley

Force Concrete Ltd

Allendale Electrical

Best Tilers Ltd

Italian Stone Ltd

Tile Union Ltd

Auckland Stone Masons Ltd

            Len Lavas

            Bart Mundy

Stevenson Precast Systems

Dave Milina Structural Stone Ltd

Consolidated Engineering Co Ltd

Springbank General Metalwork

Materials Processing Ltd

            Peter Fredricsen

Earnie Sharp

Emerald Downs Quarry

The House of Elliot

            Diana Elliot


Photograph by Diana Elliot, The House of Elliot Ltd