Yandhai Bridge

KI Studio’s competition winning YANDHAI Bridge design was strongly driven from a landscape and urban design point of view rather than from an engineering focus. The resulting 200 metre truss span is a unique solution that challenges common engineering thinking and makes the bridge a destination in itself rather than just a crossing point. The bridge was developed as a unique and iconic structure that provides safe shared path connection across the Nepean River. The bridge promotes Penrith as a River City, linking it to the water, providing connectivity between Penrith and Emu Plains and sits sensitively in the landscape. The project demonstrates how landscape architects and urban designers can enrich infrastructure projects, contributing their skills in landscape/site and cultural interpretation and to assist the team in weaving both physical and social responses into the project outcome as an integral part of the design.


The vision

The vision is to make the bridge a destination in itself rather than just a crossing point, i.e. “more than just a bridge- a meeting place”. After a thorough analysis of the surrounding landscape and environment, the developed bridge concept created is playful and invites visitors to experience the Nepean River from a variety of vantage points. The spaces have been designed for people to meet, linger, and contemplate in.

Brief & design challenges:
• Provide a pedestrian and cyclist connection between Penrith City Centre and Emu Plains
• Be a destination and create opportunities for people to engage with the river
• Optimise views of the Nepean River and Victoria Bridge
• Respect the historic setting and place of the area
• Minimise impact on rowers using the river
• Provide a crossing that is flood proof, comfortable and safe to use
• Be practical to construct and cost effective
• Be sensitive to adjacent residents’ privacy.

KEY CHALLENGES were minimizing impacts to the rowing course (the longest, straight natural river course worldwide), being sensitive to adjacent residents, relating to nearby bridges, responding to flood constraints, keeping to budget and siting the bridge sensitively within its historic setting.


Close collaboration between landscape architect and architect ensured that the essence from the site analysis was integrated into the design, resulting in a creative interpretation, adding ‘layers’ into the design resolution. Landscape design included critical contextual analysis to input into the bridge’s alignment in the overall landscape. The original fluid, curvilinear form related to the river, the banks and form of the historic roads surrounding the site. Protection of heritage trees, interpretation of the original Punt Road alignment, the integration with steep river bank slopes and adjacent parkland and future public space, privacy needs of residents on the Penrith side of the river and siting the new structure in the sensitive environment with the park setting and heritage places and buildings on the Emu Plains side , were key landscape planning considerations.

Key site planning issues also considered were the relationship to the existing bridge and creation of safe, legible pedestrian/cycle links from the bridge into the surrounding streets and parklands. In addition it was important to maximise retention of existing trees, especially the purple flowering Jacarandas that had heritage significance as they marked the alignment of the historic Punt Road river crossing. The bridge is an initiative of Penrith City Council in collaboration with Roads and Maritime; extensive consultation with the community took place since 2012 and a preferred design was selected based on feedback from the community and a panel of experts, including the Government Architect and other authorities.

This new bridge is an infrastructure project for the community to engage with the river, a platform for social events allowing the community to celebrate the river, for rowing races, festivals and potential other community functions such as markets. whilst also accommodating passive and active recreation- all promoting social and economic well being. Its design underpins the community’s and Council’s aspirations and creates a landmark in terms of usage and as a marker.

Architectural development- key elements

The bridge design demonstrates a sensitive and innovative design that respected the site’s cultural values and heritage items. Whilst the original design included a curvilinear shaped truss that reflect the historical alignment of the punt crossing the river, allowing the bridge to have a softer appearance, during design development the eastern abutment was relocated, resulting in a straight structure that replaced the previous ‘S’ alignment of the truss (to keep to budget and minimise impacts to private residences).
The bridge sits sensitively in the surrounding landscape, capitalises on views of the river and into parkland and is also sensitive to adjacent residents by respecting their privacy. The incorporation of viewing terraces, balconies and upper decks (later deleted) creates a structure that is “more than a bridge”, providing new spaces and places for social interaction and allowing users to enjoy the beauty of the unique river landscape setting. Active and passive areas along the bridge allowed for safety to be an integral part of the design.

The large span avoids impacts to the river and rowing course- with a 200m clear span, making it Australia’s longest span pedestrian bridge.
The architectural design makes reference to the nearby historic steel bridges, creating a dialogue between various epochs of bridge construction. The form language of the piers subtly relates to the historic Victoria Bridge, whilst solving a complex geometrical challenge to minimise afflux upriver. The bridge balustrades echo a row boat with the timbers representing the hull of a boat to make reference to the historic rowing course below. The upper portion of the balustrade is executed in steel cable to reflect a maritime character and to maximise open views to the river.

At night time, feature lighting expresses the structure as a landmark, creating a focal point along the waterway. Street lighting has been incorporated in such a way to minimise glare to private properties, whilst not detracting but rather complementing the feature lighting through reflected light.

Safety points: active and passive spaces are segregated, ensuring a safer and more enjoyable environment. Street lighting has been incorporated to ensure safety at night time and clear sight lines were considered to promote self surveillance. The design is also mostly DDA compliant and designed as a walkway for easy accessibility.

Landscape design
The landscape design used local quarried sandstone rock for the retaining walls, and planting design reinforced the indigenous plant communities of the area, as well as the cultural setting on Emu Plain’s side where Jacarandas were reinforced. Water sensitive design initiatives were also introduced on both abutment areas with swales and infiltration areas.

The truss has been prefabricated in sections and brought to site to limit carbon footprints. Robot welding was undertaken at the workshop to achieve a high efficient fabrication process. The project limited impacts to the waterway by limiting the amount of temporary piers in the river. The design greatly focused on minimising any ongoing maintenance providing long term durability. Feature and street lighting use LED fixtures. Timbers have been used from sustainable sources/plantations.
The landscape design used local rock for the retaining walls, as stepped landscape retaining walls that also provide seating and, play elements were designed for longevity, using local sandstone that is durable, and of a high grade quality.
Planting design reinforced the indigenous plant communities of the area, as well as the cultural setting on Emu Plains side where Jacaranda trees were reinforced (as well as being protected). Water sensitive design initiatives were introduced on both abutment areas.
The project promotes a healthy life style and enhances recreational facilities.

An integrated infrastructure solution that reflects creativity and provides inspiration for future generations to set a bench mark, where the function is expanded to be more than just a utilitarian crossing point, but rather a destination in itself.
• A beautiful elegant bridge providing an attractive, safe shared path connection across the Nepean River that fits sensitively into the riparian and built character and creates an aesthetic highlight for Penrith and the region.
• A landmark structure that is unique, innovative, social and sculptural.
• The incorporation of viewing terraces, balconies and upper decks (later deleted) creates a structure that is more than a bridge, providing a new space and place for social interaction and allowing users to enjoy the beauty of the unique river landscape setting.

Location: Nepean River, Penrith, NSW, Australia
Constructed: 2018 & opened October 2018
Designed By: KI STUDIO –
Architect Miguel Wustemann
Landscape architect-Dr Judy van Gelderen
BG&E- Engineers
Client: Roads and Maritime NSW & Penrith City Council


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