Contemporary bridge designs connecting worlds
Cross these bridges when you come to them! From Italy to the US and the UK, we chart the world’s most extraordinary new bridge design, showcasing the finest blend of architecture and engineering
Bridges hold a special place in our heart – a connector of worlds and places, by definition, and a feat of human ingenuity, blending seamlessly the finest of architecture and engineering, bridges can be magical objects. Futuristic or historical, above or underground, long or short, these pieces of infrastructure can make for a strong design statement. They are also perfect case studies to showcase the best of structural innovation and material experimentation, frequently the result of state-of-the-art technical research and collaboration. Here, we tour some of the world’s finest new examples in bridge design, from the UK, to America and beyond.
Designed by Volkan Alkanoglu, this pedestrian bridge in Fort Worth, Texas draws on the idea of ‘plug-and-play urbanism,’ explains its creator. Commissioned by the City of Fort Worth’s Public Art Program, the project combines public art, civic design, architecture, and infrastructure in the neat and elegant way that bridge designs do. It was cleverly fabricated off site and installed in a matter of a few hours, using sustainable materials such as cross laminated timber. The shape was conceived to resemble driftwood that can be found in the water. ‘Our cities urgently need upgrades on all levels, and plug-and-play urbanism is an economically feasible way to produce mid-scale infrastructure offsite and deliver it to its urban context. We can leverage advancements in computational design to be efficient and innovative,’ says Alkanoglu.
Erasmus Bridge, The Netherlands
Of course the Erasmus Bridge is not new, but this grande dame of bridge design has been having a celebration of its own, having just turned 25 years old. Famously situated in the Dutch city of Rotterdam and designed by UNStudio’s Ben van Berkell, the project was inaugurated in 1996 and quickly became an icon in its field - as well as a cherished landmark and lovingly used piece of infrastructure for its city. It stands tall, proudly supported by a single pylon, its white, artfully curved shape uniting Rotterdam’s north and south.
Park Union Bridge, USA
Completing the US Olympic and Paralympic Museum complex in Colorado, USA, Park Union Bridge was designed by the same architects behind the angular main museum volume, Diller Scofidio + Renfro. The design takes inspiration from ‘the gravity-defying motion of athletes’, explain the team. As a result, the 250ft white structure appears to be floating weightlessly above ground. ‘The bridge is an exercise in fitness – both in terms of material and geometry,’ says DS+R designer Benjamin Gilmartin. ‘The hybrid steel structure system functions as an arch and a truss, elegantly preserving views from Downtown to the majestic mountain ranges of Pikes Peak.’
This striking bridge prototype is the brainchild of a collaboration between the Block Research Group (BRG) at ETH Zurich and Zaha Hadid Architects Computation and Design Group (ZHACODE) with concrete specialist Incremental3D, and made possible by Holcim. Named Striatus and installed in the gardens of Venice, this arched 3D concrete-printed masonry bridge is a result of experimentations in reducing the CO2 emissions in constructions of this kind. ‘This precise method of 3D concrete printing allows us to combine the principles of traditional vaulted construction with digital concrete fabrication to use material only where it is structurally necessary, without producing waste,’ says ETH professor Philippe Block of the bridge design.
Murdoch’s Connection Bridge, UK
The new Murdoch’s Connection bridge in Hull is named after the city’s first female GP, Dr Mary Murdoch. It is also a crucial bit of infrastructure that helps reconnect the city centre with its waterfront. Designed by Jonathan McDowell of Matter Architecture, the bridge is now open to the public, improving pedestrian and cycle routes in a heavily trafficked area. The structure spans 40m and features a striking design – suspended from a steel shell structure, which becomes a canopy for shading and also frames views towards the surrounding landscape. ‘This project presented a great opportunity to re-establish vital connections across the highway and to create a series of new public places for people to enjoy the city. The design process was an excellent example of creative collaboration between architect and engineer,’ says McDowell.
Colwyn Bay Pier, UK
OK, so this is technically not a bridge – it’s a pier. But it features the same elegant and weightless feeling, not to mention it connects two very important parts of coastal life, land and sea. This fine example is Colwyn Bay’s Victoria Pier, which has just reopened following a restoration and reimagining by Donald Insall Associates. Works on this historic Grade II-listed pier lasted some three years, and they were no mean feat. The structure was left derelict when the architects took on the commission in 2018, following a 2008 closure and 2017’s Storm Doris. The team lovingly researched and restored elements of the structure on and off site, retaining as much of the original historical fabric as possible.
Espérance Bridge, UK
London’s popular King’s Cross area now has a bright red bridge in its colourful architecture complex, courtesy of Moxon Architects. Espérance Bridge has just opened to the public, connecting Pancras Square to Coal Drops Yard and Granary Square. Working with engineers Arup, the architects were ‘inspired by the area’s industrial past’. As a result, the 25m bridge takes its cues from the ‘bold colour from the lost railway bridges of Regent’s Canal’, for example, a similar structure on site which was used from 1821 to transport coal to the goods yard. The fine engineering and imaginative design is complemented by a lighting strategy designed by Studio 29.
Domus Aurea, Italy
Italian architecture practice Stefano Boeri Architetti has revealed its completed design for a new entrance to the historical site of the Domus Aurea in Rome and a pedestrian walkway to access the Octagonal Room within the vast landscaped palace built by the Emperor Nero in the heart of the ancient city. The path, a bridge-like structure, connects internally the entrance and main room and stands almost 6m above the ancient floor. ‘The project represented an extraordinary opportunity – thanks to the choices of the Colosseum Archaeological Park – to bring back to the attention of the city one of the most evocative realities of history and Roman architecture, allowing each visitor to descend directly into the heart of Nero’s Domus,’ says practice founder Stefano Boeri.