Made with 20,000 sheets of bright red paper and without the use of glue, this bridge of paper is not only self-supporting but can in theory carry a weight of up to 4 tons.

A temporary installation commissioned by the Lakes Culture tourism organisation and designed by British architect Steve Messam, the bridge demonstrates amazing structural strength because the sheets of paper are so tightly packed together that the bridge effectively leans into itself. Constructed over a wood skeleton, 1000 sheets of paper at a time were added. After packing the paper super tight, the wood frame was removed. At either end, the span is anchored to steel gabions of local stone.

The paper used – a 270gsm uncoated paper stock – was supplied by local manufacturer James Cropper. Although it was not waterproofed, the Paperbridge did survive several rainstorms during its 10 day long display. This might at first seem surprising but the rainwater in fact just causes the paper to swell, resulting in a structure that is actually thicker and stronger. Furthermore, the paper is colourfast so the bright red colour did not leach out in the rain.

After the display was dismantled, the 20,000 sheets of paper were returned to the mill where they were recycled.

Photos © Steve Messam 2015