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Children help to unlock the secrets of how Tower Bridge really works

PUBLISHED: 07:00 14 December 2018

Iconic Tower Bridge that is London’s defining landmark. Picture: Mike Brooke

Iconic Tower Bridge that is London's defining landmark. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Schoolchildren have been helping create an artwork using statistics to show how the giant cantilevers and bascule counterweights lift Tower Bridge to let shipping through.

Youngsters join artist Imogen Piper's 'statistics' workshop to help create an artwork showing how Tower Bridge works. Picture: Tower Bridge ExhibitionYoungsters join artist Imogen Piper's 'statistics' workshop to help create an artwork showing how Tower Bridge works. Picture: Tower Bridge Exhibition

They took part in data-collecting workshops run by artist Imogen Piper who was also given rare access to historical construction data for the iconic bridge.

She has used the data to create a large sculpture fashioned from pipes, containers and tubes that mimic the fluid systems working the mechanism that has famously lifted the cantilevers since 1894.

Her ‘Fluid Statics’ exhibition runs till the end of January in the historic Victorian engine rooms as part of a programme of events to turn the world heritage landmark into London’s newest culture venue.

Bridgemaster Chris Erlie with original construction plans for Tower Bridge. Picture: Mike BrookeBridgemaster Chris Erlie with original construction plans for Tower Bridge. Picture: Mike Brooke

“Imogen has immersed herself into our fascinating data collections,” Bridge Master Chris Earlie said. “Her artwork is part of our ‘new identity’ as London’s defining landmark.”

Imogen uses liquids to show the weights of solid materials that make up the bridge structure while drawing her inspiration from its lasting Gothic style.

She says: “This landmark bridge is inspiring alone. But the access I’ve now been given to historic data has let me discover its intricacies and enriched my art practice.”

Tower Bridge under construction in 1893, a year before completion when it was opened by the Prince of Wales. Picture: Metropolitan ArchivesTower Bridge under construction in 1893, a year before completion when it was opened by the Prince of Wales. Picture: Metropolitan Archives

He work is on display next to the old hydraulic engines that were once the power for the mighty bridge lift, part of a permanent exhibition that strips the bridge right back to its mechanical core.

Tower Bridge was the creation of architect Sir Horace Jones and civil engineer Sir John Wolfe Barry, which took eight years to complete. It was officially opened in June, 1894, by the Prince and Princess of Wales, the future King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.

Nearest stations are Tower Gateway DLR and Tower Hill Underground.

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