Posts Tagged: Bristol



The Bristol Cable Car — When “Concepts” Go Wrong

A “concept” for an urban gondola system in Bristol, UK from back in 2008. See any problems? Image via BBC.

Purely by chance, I recently came across the above image for a conceptual urban gondola in Bristol, UK from five years back.

Notice anything bizarre about it?

Regular readers of this site (and a whole industry of ropeway technicians and engineers) will notice immediately that the concept presented is technologically impossible.

While turning on towers is possible (see the Kolmarden zoo system); bi-direction turns on towers are not possible without a whole series of intervening equipment (see this system for example).

What’s presented in the image above can’t be done. Not in that way; not in the way that it is presented.

Now of course the concepts presented in that image were just that — concepts. But for a concept to be a concept it has to exist within the realm of possibility. Otherwise, it’s fiction. Actually, it’s fantasy. Fiction tends to exist within a realistic world. This, as drawn, and within the confines of the technology as we know it cannot exist.

Conceptual designs and images are an incredibly useful tool for getting people to envision and buy into an idea. They’re great for transforming an idea into a project (which, I’d like to point out are two completely different things).

But if a conceptual design implants in the stakeholder a vision of something that’s unrealistic and never-going-to-happen, we risk all sorts of problems downstream. Expectations missed, design delays and budgets overshot—all are potential risks from an ill-conceived concept.

If you’re going to concept, concept something you know can be built.

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