Engineering Design Consultants
Sep112017
Footbridge 2017 highlights

Last week Eadon Consulting’s Michael Thorogood attended the Footbridge 2017 conference in Berlin. The conference is held every 3 years with a new location for each event. It attracts engineers, architects and academics from all over the world to hear from leaders in the field and to discuss and debate advances in technology and recent footbridge projects.

Below are some of Michael’s highlights from the event.

One of the highlights was the location. The event was held at TU Berlin (Berlin’s technical university) at the old AEG factory. The design of the factory is very striking and has many of its original engineering features. There are several overhead cranes, which are still used in the massive engineering workshop, and all around there are constant reminders of what good robust engineering design looks like. It is an excellent example of where good engineering can also look great too.

 The AEG building at TU Berlin

The AEG building at TU Berlin

One key area of interest is the moving bridges that are under development or recently completed. Three academics (K. Adachi, Y. Chikahiro, I. Ario) from Hiroshima University gave a series of presentations on their idea for a lightweight deployable bridge for use after a natural disaster or similar emergency. Their concept involved an origami inspired ‘scissor’ bridge which, when folded, fits on the back of a lorry but can easily and quickly be set up by only a few people. The bridge would be unloaded, rotated and then unfolded to cross the obstruction (e.g. river) in only a few minutes. As part of their work they built and tested a prototype that can span approximately 12metres.

 Origami inspired deployable footbridge

Origami inspired deployable bridge

A similar project, presented in the same session, was Etienne Bouleau who talked through the recently completed Ripple Bridge at Geneva’s Jet d’Eau. The project allows users to walk out to the Jet d’Eau on Lake Geneva whilst also allowing small boats to continue to pass. The great aspect of the design is that it allows users access in both its flat position but also continued access to those on foot when in the ‘raised’ position via a series of shallow steps.

 The Ripple Bridge at Geneve Jet d'eau

The Ripple Bridge at Lake Geneva

The theme of the conference was ‘Tell a story’. As an introduction to the theme, the film director Robert Schwentke spoke about the broader aspects of storytelling and how a film maker goes about constructing the story from small ordered scenes to create acts which go on to form the film as a whole and how each aspect can be built up in a similar manner.

Another keynote speaker, Prof. Dr. Philippe Block, showed what the not so distant future of structures could be. His practice has built numerous extremely thin but strong structures by careful analysis and thorough understanding of their behaviour and form finding. He showed how his research group generated a 3D knitted mesh which was then covered in concrete to create a scale model of a bridge.  His other work has been realised into full size structures and hence there is a growing body of work showing how this combined design and engineering approach can be applied to the real world.

 Knitted concrete shell bridge

Knitted thin shell bridge

As it was a bridge conference there were also keynote speeches from leaders in the bridge design field. Keith Brownlie of BEaM gave an amusing and light-hearted insight into the differing tastes throughout the world for bridge design. Through examples, Keith showed how a single design can be too flamboyant for one country but may be too subdued for others. He showed how, even when you try and develop what you believe will be the optimum solution that meets their technical requirements whilst also aligning to their anticipated tastes, the client may still go for a totally unexpected solution.

In summary, each of the three days provided an insight into the potential future directions for bridge design, using examples of recently completed projects and encouraging debate.

For more information regarding our involvement in bridges and moving structures, or to discuss your project, please telephone 0114 399 0400 or email us.

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