20 June 2011

Building-to-building pedestrian bridge contest

This is a little late, but never mind.

DesignbyMany is a website where specific design challenges can be posted to an online community, with the hope that users will discuss options and modify each other's designs rather than merely competing individually. It's a concept I've covered before: see Open sourcing bridge design. The many-minds-are-better-than-one theory is great, but difficult to bring into effect where the individual effort is what is actually incentivised (by ego, even if not by prize money).

They've posted a somewhat abstract contest to design a pedestrian link bridge spanning between two buildings. The location is irrelevant, what they are looking for is a structure which is modular, adaptable, and rapidly deployable. These are not real-world issues, as almost every building link-span is a prototype design adapted to very specific site needs and built as part of the original building construction. But they are potentially thought-provoking, and an interesting conceptual challenge.

The prize is an HP printer, plus being featured on the widely read ArchDaily website, which should make the contest attractive to students and the unemployed in possession and command of some glitzy 3d visualisation software, anyone trying to build a portfolio.

I groaned when I saw that all three judges are architects, two of them specialists in digital design software. At least one, Wilkinson Eyre's Ezra Groskin, has a background in bridge design and presumably an instinct for what might actually be feasible in the real world. Nonetheless, the whole set up is instantly depressing, with nobody present who could really determine whether the designers have tackled the very significant engineering problems which are implicit to the whole challenge. I guess that's not what they're looking for, as is so often the case with similar architectural "design" contests.

I am late to the party, as the challenge was announced on 3rd June, and the deadline for submissions is 26th June. The design community gets to vote for a 2nd prize winner on 3rd July. Full details are available at the contest website.

The first three submissions posted don't immediately fill me with great expectations: one is obsessed with hexagons but showing no visible means of structural support nor any real detail of how it would be assembled; another offers a "bubble bridge", pictured, which although cute is likewise lacking anything which might be described as a structural system.

Only the third, pictured left, seems to offer much promise: the construction of shared atria between buildings, rather than mere footbridges, offering opportunities both in terms of a revitalised working space as well as for energy-related measures such as passive ventilation.

The hyperboloid gridshell structure is not particularly "deployable" for a retro-fitted solution at this scale, but it's imaginative as well as visually attractive.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey I have glitzy 3D software! And my design is boring and hey wait a minute!