Cecil Balmondâs new bridge in Portugal will be the first span to bear the engineerâs own name. Having stepped out from the long shadow of Rem Koolhaas, with whom Balmond has had a long and fruitful collaboration, the Pedro and InÃªs Bridge, located on a lyrical site on the banks of Portugal's Rio Modego, is an expression of the engineerâs own strong artistic sensibility.
Balmond, founder of the Advanced Geometry Unit at Arup, has formed the bridge from two cantilevered walkways, reaching out from each river bank on elegantly sculpted supports and joining in the middle to form a kinked viewing platform. Each walkway is responsible for supporting the other, a mutually dependent piece of engineering (developed with Portugal's AntÃ³nio AdÃ£o de Foncesca) that appears at first glimpse to be impossible; from the river bank, the two sides don't look as if they meet, while the angular glass and carbon steel balustrade shimmers with reflections from the water below.
Located in the city of Coimbra, central Portugal, the structure has pleasing parallels with an evocative local legend, the story of Pedro and InÃªs, fourteenth-century royal lovers who tragically went against the wishes of their respective families. The story not only gives the structure its name, the Pedro and InÃªs Bridge, but has enabled it to become an instant local landmark.