Posts tagged with "Bridges":

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China’s Belt and Road Initiative is tying the world together—but what's the end game?

In addition to the more infamous killing and pillaging conducted by its various hordes, the Mongol Empire, first led by Genghis Khan and later by his grandson Kublai, brought nearly all of Asia, much of the Middle East, and some of Europe under a unified system of trade and commerce in the 13th century. Consolidating ancient Silk Road mercantile connections, it brought currency into widespread use and generally sought win-win trade deals with conquered territories. While that empire faded by the mid-14th century, it gave the world a precursor to the modern-day state of China, which has embarked on its own ambitious—and, to some, unsettling—quest to link a considerable portion of the world through trade.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), launched in 2013 by Chinese president Xi Jinping, includes hundreds of infrastructure projects financed and constructed in part or in whole by Chinese entities in lands far beyond China’s borders. Projects include ports, airports, rail lines, utilities, industrial centers, highways, and even entire new cities and urban sectors. “Belt” refers to roads and railways while, paradoxically, “road” refers to sea-lanes; together they aim for nothing less than the unification of almost all of Asia and Africa.

The initiative segments the globe into “corridors” and involves differing levels of participation from host countries. There is no official count of participating countries, but estimates range from 60—covering nearly all of Asia—to well over one hundred. The BRI’s six main economic corridors include the New Eurasian Land Bridge, the China-Central Asia–West Asia Economic Corridor, the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor, the Bangladesh–China–Myanmar Economic Corridor, the China–Mongolia–Russia Economic Corridor, and the China–Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor.

Analysts estimate that trade generated by the BRI reached $117 billion last year. The total estimated cost, by 2027: up to $1.3 trillion. Whether that investment will pay off for China remains to be seen. Chinese banks and companies hope to profit from loan payments and contracts; the Chinese state hopes to benefit by opening markets and gaining influence. The World Bank estimates that the BRI could reduce transportation times on many corridors by 12 percent, increase trade between 2.7 percent and 9.7 percent, increase income by up to 3.4 percent, and lift 7.6 million people from extreme poverty.

Consisting largely of heavy infrastructure, these projects are unlikely to result in lavish Xanadus to stoke the architectural imagination. With the exception of some impressive new cities and city districts, such as Port City in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and some choice high-speed rail stations, BRI projects include workaday structures like cargo terminals, highway bridges, and the odd potash plant. The BRI recalls past geopolitical initiatives, like the Marshall Plan, by which the United States revived, and benefited from, Europe’s economy after World War II. But the BRI dwarfs the Marshall Plan, which comprised $13 billion of investment, or around $100 billion in today’s dollars—much less than BRI’s trillion-dollar scope.

As arguably the biggest collection of construction projects in human history, the BRI offers ample opportunities for architects, contractors, engineers, and other designers. Many, if not most, of the firms involved are Chinese concerns with close ties to the state. They include state-owned enterprises like China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) and China State Construction Engineering Corporation, the world’s third-largest shipping company and largest construction company, respectively. Both are massive enterprises with numerous subsidiaries, and though they are publicly traded, they ultimately answer to the Chinese Communist Party.

In many ways, this effort to build soft power through hard infrastructure extends a domestic development strategy that China has followed for the past two decades. Itself a developing nation not long ago, China has built up its own ports, roads, and railroads in order to unify its national economy and give its manufacturing sector—which comprises 20 percent of the world’s output of goods—access to global markets.

The Chinese government optimistically refers to the BRI as a 21st-century Silk Road, one that harmoniously links economies and increases prosperity for dozens of countries and billions of people, representing up to 60 percent of the world’s economic output. China pitches these projects to host countries as tools of economic development. Analysts say that success, for China and BRI partners alike, depends on far more than concrete and steel. The onus falls on host countries to make use of China’s largesse. Efficient trade relies on everything from effective local governance to the mobility of workers to the mitigation of environmental impacts. In the case of partners like Belarus (sometimes referred to as Europe’s last dictatorship) whose governments are unstable, corrupt, or underdeveloped, reforms may pose greater challenges than does the development of megaprojects.

In many cases, benefits to host countries have not materialized. Many projects use little local expertise or labor; rather, they are boons for Chinese engineering firms, construction companies, and suppliers such as steel and concrete manufacturers. Once built, they take on a nearly colonial tenor, moving raw materials out of host countries and moving Chinese goods into them. And no matter how economists feel about BRI projects, the initiative has already alarmed environmentalists. The number and physical size of projects promise to remake urban landscapes, alter—and destroy—natural landscapes, and consume untold millions of tons of natural resources, building materials, and fossil fuels. Chinese environmental laws and practices are also notoriously lax compared to those in the U.S. and Europe. In 2017 the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) issued a report documenting BRI projects’ numerous incursions into sensitive habitats. WWF identified “high impacts” throughout nearly all of Southeast Asia and “moderate impacts” in BRI corridors in Central Asia. BRI projects have also been associated with increases in the use of coal for power production in many host countries. 

Beyond environmental effects, even when host countries own their assets, they are indebted to Chinese financiers. Reports indicate that many countries cannot pay off construction loans, leaving them indebted to China indefinitely. Many projects have turned into white elephants. Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in Sri Lanka was designed to accommodate one million passengers per year. Though fully operational, Mattala currently serves zero passengers, while also servicing $190 million in debt to Chinese banks. Having been a relatively poor, developing country so recently, China likely understands the pressure points of the Myanmars and Mozambiques of the world better than any other global power does.

The Center for Global Development estimates that as many as eight countries involved with the BRI are already at risk of debt distress. Some countries are in debt to China by a factor of as much as 20 percent of their GDPs. Others are now approaching BRI proposals more gingerly than they might have when the program launched. Malaysia recently canceled $22 billion in BRI projects; other countries, particularly Kenya and Mozambique, are pushing back against proposals and renegotiating deals. Ultimately, economic domination via financing may not be a great strategy—flush with cash though they may be, Chinese banks want returns on their investments no less than Western banks do. Then again, even if they aren’t repaid, the Chinese state might still get what it wants in the form of global influence.

In other words, the BRI is as much a geopolitical experiment as it is an economic development strategy.

Josh Stephens is contributing editor to The California Planning & Development Report and author of the forthcoming The Urban Mystique: Notes on Los Angeles, California, and Beyond.

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Internet-infamous, truck-decapitating bridge will finally be raised

It’s the end of an era. The 11-foot, 8-inch railroad trestle that went viral for sheering the roofs off of campers, freight trucks, and other too-tall vehicles in Durham, North Carolina, is finally being raised. Nicknamed the “Can Opener” for obvious reasons, the Norfolk Southern–Gregson Street Overpass gained notoriety after Durham resident Jürgen Henn set up a webcam in 2008 (and a second in 2009) to capture the carnage. Although there are plenty of signs nearby warning of the bridge’s low height, drivers either ignored or didn’t see them, and the resultant crashes were preserved forever on 11foot8.com. A subreddit, documentary, and plenty of memes soon followed, as viewers often binge watched the oddly soothing footage and shared tales of similar bridges in their own cities. But on October 18, that all changed. The Durham Transportation Department announced via Twitter that they would be raising the overpass by eight inches and closing the street below from October 23 through November 5. The upgrade is one of the North Carolina Railroad Company’s (NCRR) Major Capital Investments projects, which is intended to improve railway conditions around the state. In the case of the Can Opener, the NCRR is undertaking a “Rehabilitation of NCRR bridge over Gregson Street in Durham to increase the roadway clearance from 11 feet, 8 inches to 12 feet, 4 inches for the purpose of improving safety and reducing damage to NCRR infrastructure from vehicle strikes,” according to their list of capital improvements. What took the NCRR so long? According to 11foot8, the railroad company had installed a crash bar to mitigate damage to the bridge, and lowering the road would be prohibitively expensive due to the sewer main that runs right below the span—thus placing the upgrade on the backburner, as the crashes weren’t impacting NCRR service. As Mel Magazine laments, the raising of the overpass marks a blow to collective internet meme-making and schadenfreude-based binge-watching. When one hits play on an 11foot8 video, they know exactly what they’re getting into, no matter how fast or slow the approaching truck tries to sneak under. Still, just because the bridge is getting raised doesn’t mean the “fun” is over; as numerous online commenters have pointed out, the maximum allowable height of a truck in North Carolina is 13 feet, 6 inches. 11foot8 might live on after all.
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BIG’s twisting sculpture-bridge-museum opens in Norway

The Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)-designed “The Twist” has opened in Jevnaker, Norway, bridging a 10,700-square-foot art museum across two riverbanks in northern Europe’s largest sculpture park. The project was first announced in 2011, and while this isn’t the first time BIG has put a twist on the traditional building massing, it’s certainly their most daring entry into the genre. The Twist is now the second bridge in the Kistefos Sculpture Park and doubles the amount of indoor exhibition space available to the institution. Both sides of the building, from the vertically oriented, double-height portion to the south, to the horizontal passage to the north, serve as main entrances. Both are accessible through pedestrian bridges that wend up through the woods to their respective sides of the river, with The Twist serving to connect them into one circuitous loop through the sculpture park. Design-wise, BIG opted to create a visual homogeny between the museum’s interior and exterior. Outside, the building is sheathed in long, 15-inch-wide, staggered aluminum panels, while the interior is clad in 3-inch-wide fir slats painted white on the walls, floor, and ceiling—making the transition as one rotates into another seamless. At the center, as the building begins its 90-degree twist, a nascent skylight “unzips” and turns with the rest of the building to form floor-to-ceiling windows that offer a panoramic view of the river The Twist sits over. “The Twist is a hybrid spanning several traditional categories: it’s a museum, it’s a bridge, it’s an inhabitable sculpture,” said Bjarke Ingels in a press release. “As a bridge it reconfigures the sculpture park turning the journey through the park into a continuous loop. As a museum it connects two distinct spaces–an introverted vertical gallery and an extraverted horizontal gallery with panoramic views across the river. A third space is created through the blatant translation between these two galleries creating the namesake twist. The resultant form becomes another sculpture among the sculptures of the park.” The massing of the building naturally delineates it into three different gallery sections. The tall portion, with no natural light, the sculptural middle where the building is mid-twist, and the daylight-lit flatter portion at the north. Visitors can descend beneath the northern horizontal section to access the museum’s basement and bathrooms, bringing them level with the river. Such a complicated project necessitated a great amount of collaboration, and BIG cites “Element Arkitekter, AKT II, Rambøll, Bladt Industries, Max Fordham and Davis Langdon” as their partners in realizing The Twist.
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A collaboration of Dutch companies wants to 3D print an entire pedestrian bridge

Three Dutch organizations—the materials company DSM, the engineering firm Royal HaskoningDHV, and the 3D printer manufacture CEAD—have teamed up to create a printer capable of printing continuous glass- or carbon-fiber-reinforced thermoplastics. Currently, they are demonstrating the capabilities of printing structural elements, and even, they hope, entire pedestrian bridges, with CEAD’s CFAM Prime printer which can create parts as large as 13 feet by six-and-a-half feet by five feet. While formwork molds have previously been created by large-scale printers and then used in turn create structural parts, this is one of the earlier examples of the potential of 3D printing to create large polymer structural elements, and, possibly, entire bridges. The firms say that combining polymers with continuous fibers allows for the construction of lightweight, high-strength elements ideal for infrastructure solutions, and while other 3D printed building materials have run into trouble when it comes to cold temperature and exposure to the elements, the designers hope that these fiber-and-plastic combos can weather storms as well as any traditional building—though it remains to be seen if these 3D-printed elements would be able to address the brittleness problem sometimes faced when plastics are used for larger structures. Maurice Kardas, the business development manager of Royal HaskoningDHV, told 3Dprint.com that “fiber-reinforced plastic bridges have been known for their long life spans and lower overall costs in comparison with steel bridges. Now we will be using a new 3D printing technology which lets us at scale make fiber-reinforced plastic parts. through adding sensors to the bridge we can make a ‘digital twin’ of the bridge itself. these sensors can predict and optimize maintenance, ensure safety and lengthen the life span of bridges.” While the team cites sustainability as a possible benefit—noting the polluting nature of concrete—these forms still rely upon plastics, in this case Arnite which is a rigid PBT or PET. Composites like these remain notoriously difficult to recycle, and are often petroleum-based. Still, additive manufacturing processes often produce less waste, take less time, and hopefully, will offer durability advantages over other existing processes.
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Fentress’s asymmetric Lone Tree Pedestrian Bridge sprouts in Colorado

The Lone Tree Pedestrian Bridge shares the name of the Colorado city it rises in and connects Lone Tree’s south and north sides. More than a bridge, Denver’s Fentress Architects imagined the anchoring structure as an instantly recognizable icon, and drew upon the city’s leaf emblem to create a distinctive 80-foot-tall, 100-ton white steel pylon. The 170-foot-long pedestrian bridge crosses the city’s busiest street, Lincoln Avenue, and is supported by six cables that branch off from the “leaf,” creating an effect reminiscent of Santiago Calatrava’s elegant cable-stay infrastructure projects. The bridge itself is surrounded with an open metal mesh and is topped with an ETFE canopy to protect pedestrians from the weather while still allowing sunlight to pass through. Soft lighting was also installed to allow for the structure’s use at night. Access to the pylon and bridge is accomplished by a series of spiraling ramps on both sides. The project was especially important for the community, according to Fentress, because although 90,000 cars pass through Lincoln Avenue daily, there had previously been no way for residents to easily cross the major arterial. The project was completed in June 2018 and now occupies a previously unfilled roll in connecting biking and walking trails throughout the Denver Metro area. Earlier this week on September 10, the Lone Tree Pedestrian Bridge was named a recipient of the Chicago Athenaeum’s 2019 American Architecture Awards. All of the winners will be honored at an awards gala on October 10.
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Boris Johnson calls for feasibility study of bridge from Northern Ireland to Scotland

Britain’s new Prime Minister Boris Johnson has requested a feasibility report to determine if a bridge could be built between Northern Ireland and Scotland. Great Britain’s Channel 4 News reportedly caught wind of Johnson’s request to the Treasury and Department for Transport asking officials to look into building the link over the Irish Sea, an idea he first began seriously touting last year. The idea was initially circulated in early 2018 by architect Alan Dunlop, a well-known Glasgow-based academic-practitioner, historian, and author, when Johnson was first talking about building a 22-mile-long bridge across the English Channel to France. That discussion with French president Emmanuel Macron began as a way to potentially relieve post-Brexit transportation problems. Dunlop studied the possible connection and unveiled an image to go along with his findings at an architecture conference in Scotland last September.  Based on his studies, Dunlop believes it’s definitely possible to create a roadway and rail link from the island to Scotland, even though past attempts have never gone anywhere. Dunlop estimates such a project—nicknamed the Celtic Crossing—would cost about $13.2 billion if it spanned the North Irish Sea from the Mull of Kintyre in Campbeltown, Scotland to Torr Head in Northern Ireland, the closest points between the neighboring islands.  Right now it takes almost nine hours to get from the northeastern tip in Northern Ireland to the southern tip of the U.K.’s Kintyre Peninsula by car and drivers have to take a ferry. The space between the sites is actually only 12 miles apart. Dunlop has also vocalized the notion that a bridge from Larne, Northern Ireland, to Portpatrick, Scotland, could be an even better location, though it would cost a few billion dollars more and be substantially longer at 21 miles.  Johnson has long been known as a supporter of large-scale infrastructure upgrades around the U.K. As mayor of London, he was particularly excited about the now-abandoned scheme designed by Heatherwick Studio to build a Garden Bridge across the Thames river. The proposal quickly became defunct because it proved to be too expensive, and the city’s current Mayor Sadiq Khan cut the program after being elected following Johnson’s exit.  A spokesperson told Channel 4 News that it’s no secret that the PM is interested in projects like these that “increase connectivity for people” and “strengthen the union.” At one point during his mayorship, Johnson wanted to build an estuary airport as well.  Johnson’s call to conduct a feasibility study for a new Celtic Crossing includes finding out how much it might cost and what risks might be associated with building there—it’s been reported that World War 2 munitions still exist in the Irish Sea. As for Dunlop, he’s fully behind the idea, telling the News Letter that it’s time this project gets a deeper exploration by the U.K. government, but doesn’t want to get too involved with the politics of it all.  “There are naysayers who, for whatever reason, don’t like Boris Johnson or they think it would cost too much money,” he admitted to the paper. “The comments are aimed at Boris Johnson and what is happening with Brexit. They don’t have anything to do with the possibility of connecting Scotland and Ireland... I’m trying my very best to stay clear of the politics and look at it from a straightforward architectural and engineering possibility.”
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California will build world’s largest wildlife crossing

Cut off from surrounding land by the ten-lane expanse of Route 101, Southern California’s Santa Monica Mountains are a challenging habitat for indigenous wildlife. Ecologists have long insisted that the freeway poses a serious threat to the genetic health of certain animal populations, including bobcats, coyotes, deer, fence lizards, and mountain lions. The mountain lions are particularly at risk, with some experts suggesting that the local population could be extinct within 15 years if individuals are not given access to mating partners in other parts of the region.

Fortunately, California state authorities are working to implement a solution that has proven effective in other parts of North America and Western Europe. Officials are currently in the final stages of design development for a 200-foot-wide wildlife crossing, which will be the largest animal bridge in the world upon completion. The bridge will span a portion of the 101 in Liberty Canyon, approximately 35 miles northwest of central Los Angeles, making this the first example of a wildlife crossing in such close proximity to a major urban center.

The wildlife crossing will thus operate essentially as an overpass for a wide variety of animals, providing a strip of native landscaping that connects each side of the freeway. In addition to native plantings, the crossings will be equipped with sound barriers to mitigate the negative effects of vehicular noise on animal comfort. Wildlife fencing, which is designed to prevent native animals from crossing into dangerous roads, will line both sides of Route 101 so that creatures are guided towards the overpass. Beyond protecting native fauna from deadly accidents and population decline, the overpass will likely reduce emergency response and repair costs from vehicle-on-wildlife collisions.

Bridges like the one proposed for the Santa Monica Mountains require an immense amount of behavioral research to ensure effectiveness, including studies of which types of plant life and overall environmental factors are preferred by certain species. As existing examples have shown, some animals take longer than others to become accustomed to artificial crossings. Coyotes and deer, which have comparatively high levels of contact with human infrastructure and settlements, tend to use bridges almost immediately after completion, whereas more isolated species like cougars and bears can take years to gain confidence in the structures.

Wildlife overpasses are already in use in Wyoming, where endangered pronghorn herds cross designated bridges during regular migrations, and in Temecula, north of San Diego. Washington State is investing $900 million in an effort to criss-cross Interstate 90 in the Cascades region with two dozen animal overpasses, the first of which was finished this year. The most famous—and perhaps one of the most successful—examples of wildlife crossing infrastructure is located in Alberta, Canada’s Banff National Park, where 6 overpasses and 38 underpasses enable animals to cross the sprawling Trans-Canada Highway. A report prepared jointly by Canadian and American researchers showed that the project reduced costs from vehicle-animal collisions by 90%.

The final design proposal for the bridge in Liberty Canyon has yet to be released by the California Department of Transportation, but several initial renderings have been released by regional nonprofits and agencies in recent years. According to the Associated Press, the final product will cost a total of $87 million, 80 percent of which will be gathered from private sources. Organizers have already raised $13.5 million in private funding. Concerns have been raised over the cost of the project but the overpass has received overwhelming public support, with almost all of the 9,000 comments on the draft environmental impact document being positive.

Construction on the wildlife crossing is slated to begin in 2021 and finish in 2023, a timeframe that ecologists hope will allow native mountain lions to breed outside the Santa Monica Mountains before it’s too late. In general, the project has raised hopes among many wildlife enthusiasts that similar investments will continue to take root across the state and country.

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Robot boats autonomously bridge a gap in Amsterdam

A joint team of researchers at the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolis Solutions (AMS) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Senseable City Lab have developed what they’re calling “the world’s first dynamic” bridge. Powered by a fleet of autonomous electric boats, roundAround will connect the Amsterdam City Center with the developing Marineterrein Amsterdam, a partly decommissioned military base that is home to the AMS Institute and a living lab for urban innovation. The project will be the first full-scale application of the Roboat project, a five-year research collaboration between the two schools. Building permanent infrastructure can be costly, complex, and a time-consuming process, particularly across the highly trafficked canals of Amsterdam. Researchers envision roundAround as a quick way to build new connections in Amsterdam and increase the use of canals to alleviate congestion as the city continues to grow and change. RoundAround employs a fleet of roboats that move in a continuous circle across the canal, like perfectly synchronized Busby Berkeley aquatic number. They move along a pre-programmed route equipped with cameras and Lidar technology that can detect obstacles or changes in the water and alter course as necessary using its four thrusters. As they approach the specialized docking platform, the roboats lock into a guide rail to provide additional stability, allowing people to board or exit without stopping. The research team estimates that the system could provide transport for hundreds of people every day, along with other benefits. “Involving citizens and visitors of the area roundAround would provide the research project with valuable continuous feedback loops,” said Stephan van Dijk, head of research & valorization at AMS. The collected data will help roboats learn and further improve their performance. But Bridges are just the beginning. The roboats were designed using a modular system that can accommodate various decks to provide different services. Researchers are hoping they will one day collect and transport garbage, provide on-demand water taxi or towing service, and securely attach to create temporary platforms for performances or “pop-up” shops. Secure connections are achieved through a novel laser-guided ball-and-socket latching mechanism. Researchers are working on improvements to the latching system, which has potential applications far beyond creating secure aquatic platforms, including cargo handling, charging stations, and even docking in space. Although autonomous cars may be getting all the headlines, Amsterdam is building its future infrastructure on the backs of autonomous boats. And what begins with one "bridge" in one city may one day connect and activate waterways worldwide.
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Venice fines Santiago Calatrava for slippery, inaccessible bridge

Santiago Calatrava is being fined—again—for his work.  This time it’s $87,000 for his Ponte della Costituzione, or Constitution Bridge, in Venice, Italy. An Italian court recently ruled that the Spanish architect needs to pay the city for cost over-runs and “negligence” in faulty design. According to The Telegraph, the 300-foot-long steel and glass piece of infrastructure ended up being weaker than intended.  Completed in 2008, the project was controversial from the beginning. Protests and heated criticism over its placement rang out upon its announcement in 1999. The biggest issues included its lack of accessibility for wheelchair users, the conflict between its modernist design and the city’s historic scenery, and the fact that it’s located very close to one of the other three walking bridges that span the Grand Canal. Nevertheless, the structure was installed after years of delays for a total of $12.9 million and now leads locals and tourists over the water from a bus terminal (many of them with rolling luggage in tow) in Santa Croce to the Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia.  The Telegraph reports that one of the other unexpected problems that people have complained about over the years involves the glass steps. They noted how slippery the stairs get when it rains or the fog descends on Venice in the winter, but Calatrava's office recently told AN that the steps are "no more slippery than other parts of the city." In addition to this, due to the bridge’s location in a highly-trafficked area, the steps have become worn-down. Some of them have already been replaced, according to the ruling judges, even though they were expected to last 20 years.   Furthermore, the court determined that the steel tubes used on the bridge were too small and the egg-shaped glass elevator, which was later added for accessibility, overheated too much. A court found earlier this year it had to be removed for safety reasons, costing the city $44,000.  The Telegraph noted that when asked over a decade ago to respond to all the criticism, Calatrava noted that he had “no influence in the selection of the contracting company that built the structure.” His work, he said, was limited to the aesthetic. In a call with AN, the firm clarified that the stairlift was, in fact, incorporated into the initial design that was revealed in the late 90s, but it was rejected by the city council. They claimed wheelchair users could take the Vaporetto water taxi instead. Years later, a new mayor commissioned the glass elevator "against Calatrava's advice," the firm said.  This isn’t the first time the famed architect has gotten in trouble with a municipality over the complexity of his projects and the time it takes to build them. Despite that, bridges are one of his specialties having designed 35 total in his career. The first, located in Barcelona, was completed in 1987—which is why the fines against him due to the mistakes on the Constitution Bridge are so high, according to the court.  
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LMN is bridging the gaps between Washington communities

Two new bridges designed by Seattle-based LMN Architects are giving back to the Washington state communities of Spokane and Tukwila. The simple, soaring white structures span automobiles and railways bridge gaps between neighborhoods, reclaiming the pedestrian experience in both the historically underserved region of the Sprague and along the bucolic Green River trail.  The Tukwila Urban Center Bridge was a key component of the city’s 20-year expansion plan. The 220-foot-long bridge is located at a major regional crossroads just outside of Seattle that's poised for expansion. The project was conceptualized with boldness in mind, resulting in a statement piece accentuated by built-in LED lighting that, when activated, climbs up the cables to offer a “subtle web effect” and flashes a colorful light show that plays off the white metallic elements.  Its form was also inspired by the region’s history, taking cues from Pacific Northwest's tribal canoes, and designed with sensitivity to the river’s large migratory salmon population. Metal grills on either side of the bridge add structural support while also allowing for sunlight to permeate down to the water, keeping it warm and fast-moving for the river life. All the while, the highly visible 45-foot-high bowstring arch acts as a local landmark for the people of Tukwila to easily navigate between the commercial western bank of the city and the more residential east side, previously unnavigable to pedestrians and cyclists. The overall effect, according to LMN, is “Simplicity, clarity, and lightness.”  The University District Gateway Bridge was unveiled side-by-side, with its prominent 120-foot-tall arch rising sharply into the Spokane skyline and visible for miles around the low neighborhoods of the University District and the emerging South University area. The Gateway Bridge is anchored by organically sloping ramps and greenery, while stair options allow cyclists and pedestrians to safely cross a route formerly bisected by a BNSF freight rail and an arterial highway,  The 458-foot-long bridge seems to grow harmoniously out of the landscape on either side of the thoroughfare, opening new opportunities for economic and social growth for both neighborhoods: expanded access to housing and retail for the University and its students, and long-awaited economic sparks for South residents.  “One of the great things about public infrastructure projects is that they benefit the entire public,” said LMN principal Howard Fitzpatrick in a statement. “The Gateway Bridge will make a real difference in the lives of many people in Spokane, and the enthusiastic public reception of the project has been very rewarding for the design team.” While both bridges only span a few hundred feet each, their dimensions are less important than the impact on the communities they connect and carefree transport. While industry and vehicles have a long and well-recorded history of interrupting the traditional human-scaled urban fabric of 21st-century cities, these simple structures are small incisions with a goal for lasting impact. 
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Architects crowdfund to build a rolling bridge in London

Architect Thomas Randall-Page has started a crowdfunding campaign to support the construction of a unique rolling bridge in London. The project, which has been nicknamed the Cody Dock Rolling Bridge, proposes building a small-scale pedestrian span over the narrow canal of Cody Dock that flows into the River Lea, which in turn connects to the Thames. According to the crowdfunding page, the design will open Cody Dock to boats for the first time in half a century and has already received approval from the Newham Council and support from Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Randall-Page describes the project as both innovative and highly contextual. It makes material reference to the area’s history of iron production while taking certain stylistic cues from the industrial design of Britain’s Edwardian era. The most distinctive aspect of the proposed design, though, is its rolling motion. The bridge runs along a pair of twin, undulating rails that are attached to the brick walls on either side of the canal, and can roll a full 180-degrees so that its floor becomes its roof. In the latter position, the bridge’s arch can accommodate barges and other boats as they move through Cody Dock.

Compared to other operable bridges, the controls of the Cody Dock Rolling Bridge are quite simple. Teeth alongside the edge of the bridge’s frame fit into notches between teeth on each rail, enabling the entire structure to roll in a steady, gear-like motion. Counterweights are built into the rounded square frame of the bridge, which prevent it from rolling uncontrollably or getting stuck in any one position. A single cable attaches the structure’s frame to a crank handle, which a person can turn to invert the bridge.

The Cody Dock Rolling Bridge forms one link in the broader redevelopment of one of London’s industrial areas. The pedestrian bridge will connect walking and bike paths on either side of the canal, allowing easier access to new artists’ studios, exhibition spaces, fabrication workshops, and a cafe along the banks of the Lea. Proponents of the design hope that the structure will serve not only as a critical piece of infrastructure but also as a compelling landmark that will attract visitors from across the city. Now in the final stretch of their fundraising effort, Randall-Page and the bridge’s supporters hope to raise upwards of $200,000 towards the completion of the project.

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Leo Villareal and Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands architects to illuminate the Thames

Londoners will see the Thames in a whole new light beginning this summer. In a collaboration between British architecture firm Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands (LDS) and U.S. artist Leo Villareal, up to 15 London bridges—including UNESCO World Heritage sites—will be outfitted with an array of new lighting for at least the next decade. The project, called Illuminated River, will highlight the bridges' unique sculptural and environmental qualities, breathe new life into urban spaces, and connect communities all along the waterway. This summer, Illuminated River will begin with four bridges—Southwark, Cannon Street, London and Millennium bridges—getting lit up. The massive installation will continue to be built over the next few years, with a further section to be completed in 2020, and an aimed completion date of 2022. The collaboration between artist and architect was natural, said LDS’s Alex Lifschutz in a statement. “Architects collaborate with many different species of being. Indeed, architects are many species of being,” he said. Villareal, who has previously illuminated bridges like San Francisco’s Bay Bridge, felt similarly. “We rely on each other’s views to achieve this great ambition," Villareal said. "The collaboration is so far a success because it is based on trust and the respect of one another’s expertise and unique vision.” The architects and artist worked together to use the latest in LED technology, along with custom software, to outfit the bridges to produce an effect that is, according to Villarreal, “gently kinetic.” While, Lifschutz pointed out, there's been a “huge revolution” in LED technology—in terms of efficiency, scalability, cost, color, control, and other attributes—in the wrong hands LED fittings are “a very potent destructive mechanism.” Lifschutz explained: “LED fittings are maybe five times more efficient than standard fittings. People have thought, ‘Well, that's fantastic. We'll save a lot of energy and the world will be all the better for it. And climate change will be that much further away.’ The unintended consequence of this high efficiency is that people use more of them. And the world has become brighter and jazzier as a result, which is a great shame." LDS and Villareal's answer is to use light “very judicially.” The architects and artist did a huge number of studies using the latest laser techniques. While the top surfaces of bridges are “straightforward,” the undersides—with all their supports and trusses—are “incredibly interesting and abstract,” said Lifschutz. “Each bridge has its own character,” he said. "It's like having 15 children—not that I do—but each one has a different character and each one deserve a different way of talking about it, of dealing with it.” They considered how to light the bridge as both a piece of art and architecture, working where the two intersected to manage the relationship between structure, form, and function in order find the best places to provide light and fix fittings, all while not affecting the structure, especially on the “very precious bridges.” “Both [Villareal and I] have a technical background in the color of light, the spread of light, the way in which light falls on surfaces, and the kinds of fittings or kinds of technical fittings that are available to make the magic happen,” explained Lifschutz. “And light is very magical, obviously.” Additionally, the river is not only a site of architectural life and preservation, but also of ecological vibrancy and conservation. The team had to do a number of ecological studies, some reportedly more thorough and substantive than those that had been done before, and research the effect of light on the creatures living in the Thames. “If you have a line of light that lies across the water, fish generally don't like to cross that,” explained Lifschutz. “It may affect spawning patterns in the shoreline and so on.” In their research, they discovered much of the existing lighting on London’s bridges was already detrimental to wildlife. “[The lighting] is spraying light everywhere; it’s the wrong color.” Many naturally uncommon colors and color temperatures—many of which are currently in use before the team’s intervention—negatively affect the wildlife swimming below. The competition to develop the river project was supported by the office of Mayor Sadiq Khan, received over 105 entries, and was done in collaboration with over 100 local organizations on and around the river. It required numerous approvals to work with listed structures. The local groups have "mostly been hugely enthusiastic,” reported Lifschutz. And it is apt that the project is titled Illuminated River—working at a scale Lifschutz calls “epic,” there will be integration across all 15 bridges to create a cohesive, unified effect and artwork “painting with light,” as Villareal put it, across the whole of London’s main waterway. “We hope Illuminated River will open up the riverside public realm spaces for people to linger, appreciate the enhanced architecture of the bridges, cultivate new opportunities, and encourage tourists to come to London and enjoy nightlife activities,” said Villareal. “It will celebrate the unique character and the amazing landmarks of the city through art.”