What Sydney Harbour Bridge Could Have Looked Like

What Sydney Harbour Bridge Could Have Looked Like - More Images+ 7

Insurance brand Budget Direct has released a series of commissioned images showcasing six alternative visions for Sydney's iconic Harbour Bridge. Standing at 134 meters high, it‘s the largest steel arch bridge in the world. The design by Dorman Long was selected in a worldwide design competition back in 1924, but what if another entry had been chosen? The project brings to life different visions for the landmark structure and how they may have shaped The Emerald City.

In 1900, the government organised a worldwide competition for the design and construction of the harbour bridge. More than 70 designs were proposed, all of them were rejected. Dorman Long eventually won the contract in 1924 after successive competitions. Fondly nicknamed the Coathanger, the project now stands as a symbol of the city. NeoMam Studios partnered with Budget Direct to produce the alternative images, and you can discover the full list below.

Norman Selfe’s design

Courtesy of NeoMam Studios

Norman Selfe proposed this design in 1902. His design was actually accepted by the New South Wales authorities, but the story doesn‘t end there; An economic slowdown resulted in a change of government, the incoming government then rejected the whole project, so the bridge remained unbuilt. Selfe might not have won this one, but he was successful and well-regarded enough to have an area of the city (Normanhurst) named after him during his lifetime, so it‘s not all bad.

Dorman Long & Co. Ltd’s designs

Courtesy of NeoMam Studios

The eventual winners of the 1924 competition and creators of the bridge we know and love today Dorman Long & Co submitted a total of seven tenders, these are two of the alternate designs they proposed. This design was for a cantilever bridge with the centre span of 0.49 km (1,600 feet). The plans failed to meet the required specifications because they used precast concrete blocks rather than granite. This other design by the company was considered by judges to be “simple and elegant, but aesthetically too severe for its setting”. Keep trying guys, you‘ll get there in the end.

F. Ernest Stowe’s design

Courtesy of NeoMam Studios

Francis Ernest Stowe submitted this radical design in 1922. This one also almost got made, the bizarre three-way structure was only narrowly rejected by the government. Stowe‘s design links Balls Head, Miller’s Point and Balmain, meeting in the middle with a central tower on Goat Island. He argued that his design was cheaper and quicker to implement than the other designs and would avoid the destruction of the North Shore. The central tower was designed to double as a war memorial, with Goat Island renamed Anzac Isle.

P.E. Henderson’s design

Courtesy of NeoMam Studios

One of the earliest known plans for the harbour bridge was this design from Peter Henderson, but he wasn‘t the first person to moot the idea of a better solution for moving people across the city. There had been plans to build a bridge as early as 1815, when architect Francis Greenway proposed to Governor Lachlan Macquarie that a bridge be built to connect the northern and southern shores. In 1857 P.E. Henderson proposed the construction of this bridge from Dawes’ Point to Milsom’s Point on the North Shore.

David B. Steinman & Holton D. Robinson’s design

Courtesy of NeoMam Studios

Two American architects, Robinson & Steinman created this design for the tender in 1924. The proposed designs combined the principles of both cantilever and suspension bridges and said to be a suspension bridge of novel design more rigid than any other at the time. It wasn‘t popular though, the official report bemoaned the overall appearance of the design, saying that “the bridge would not have a pleasing outline”. Despite this setback, the pair would successfully design bridges all over the world.

McClintic Marshall Products Company’s design

Courtesy of NeoMam Studios

This American steel manufacturing company was involved in the construction of the George Washington Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge. It submitted this design, along with a number of others for the 1924 competition. Their designs incorporated cantilever bridges, suspension bridges and an arch bridge. This design was not favoured and judges, who felt it wouldn‘t “harmonise with its surroundings.”


Sydney Morning Herald. (1936). Obituary Mr F.E. Stowe. trove.nla.gov.au

Sydney Morning Herald. (1922). The Bridge. trove.nla.gov.au

Davis, A. (2016). What the Sydney Harbour Bridge could have looked like: Historic bridge design reveals a very bizarre three-way structure. dailymail.co.uk

Walsh Bay. (2018). A divisive bridge design. walshbayhistory.net

Zeehan & Dundas Herald. (1900). Cablegrams. trove.nla.gov.au

New South Wales Government. (2014). Design tenders and proposals. sydney-harbour-bridge.nesa.nsw.edu.au

Bradfield’s Bridge. (2019). Building the Bridge. library.sydney.edu.au

Clun, R. (2018). How the Sydney Harbour Bridge could have looked. smh.com.au

New South Wales Government. (1924). Sydney Harbour Bridge – Report on Tenders. sydney-harbour-bridge.nesa.nsw.edu.au

The Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser. (1857). New South Wales Intelligence. trove.nla.gov.au

Pittwater Online News. (2017). Sydney Harbour Bridge Celebrates 85th Birthday: A Few Pittwater Connections. pittwateronlinenews.com

About this author
Cite: Eric Baldwin. "What Sydney Harbour Bridge Could Have Looked Like" 15 Aug 2019. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/922791/what-sydney-harbour-bridge-could-have-looked-like> ISSN 0719-8884

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