The scheduling was tight. Howley Harrington, Architects in conjunction with Price & Myers, Consulting Engineers were announced as winners of the Dublin Corporation Millennium Project to design a new pedestrian bridge over the River Liffey on Monday, June 8th 1998. The moment, when the Earth would turn towards a new millennium, was a mere 18 months or so away. The design was paper perfect but the location was problematic - not merely the centre of a busy, bustling city, but on its very spine, the River Liffey, and bordered by the narrow and congested city quays.
The bridge was not the first to be proposed for the area. When first mooted in the 1980s, a time of considerable economic hardship for Ireland, the idea took on little form or substance. Then, the regeneration of Temple Bar brought new and exciting ideas to the fore for an area whose alternative, and narrowly missed, destiny was to have been a large central bus station. In the early 1990s, the Wibbly Wobbly Bridge, linking Meeting House Square and the north quays, leaped from the drawing page and into the public imagination, but did not make it through the planning process.
The clock ticked, the economic tide turned a little and the global village set its sights on celebrating January 1st 2000. Millennium projects became the focus of civic pride in communities across the globe: Dublin would have its new bridge, an exclusively pedestrian one, which would be used, it was predicted, by up to 5 million people a year.
The challenge presented by the city centre location was met by assembling the bridge off-site while on-site the Liffey itself became a construction hub and the traffic laden quays were left relatively undisturbed. A large pontoon was moored in the river and from it the working platforms were constructed. The construction teams laboured in tune with the river, taking advantage of low tides whether at morning, noon or night. On Sunday 7th November 1999, the bridge structure complete with balustrades and integrated lighting, fabricated 90 kilometres away in Carlow, was lifted off its transporter and swung out over the river and onto the prepared concrete bridge ends - the operation took a mere half hour. A few weeks later, on Monday, December 20th 1999, the Millennium Bridge was opened to the public with eleven days to spare!