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Friday, July 04, 2008

Zaragoza Bridge Pavilion, Zaragoza, Spain

Hadid extends the boundaries of design by studying diamonds and sharks to create a unique bridge pavilion on the river Ebro
Zaha Hadid’s Zaragoza Bridge Pavilion has opened on the river Ebro as part of Expo Zaragoza 2008. The 270m long bridge provides a space not just to cross the river but which, in the study of natural elements in its creation, invites users to explore the concept of nature and design, in line with the Exposition’s theme: Water and sustainability. The structure invites users to take a deeper look at their surroundings both with the innovative design itself and in the exhibition space within created by the ‘pod’ design.

The shape of the Bridge Pavilion is a result of a detailed examination and research into the potential of the diamond-shape which offers both structural and programming properties. It was noted that a diamond section can efficiently distribute forces along a surface, whilst underneath a floor plate within the shape, the resulting triangular pocket space can be used to run services. The diamond section used in the Bridge Pavilion has been extruded along a slightly curved path generating the four separate ‘pods’ of the Bridge Pavilion. The stacking and interlocking of these truss elements (the ‘pods’) satisfies two specific criteria: optimizing the structural system, and allowing for a natural differentiation of the interiors - where each ‘pod’ corresponds to a specific exhibition space. By intersecting the trusses/pods, they brace each other and loads are distributed across the four trusses instead of a singular main element, resulting in a reduction in size of load-bearing members.

The design capitalizes on the ambiguous nature of the original brief, maintaining both the aspect of a traditional bridge (open to the environment with the steel structure being the dominant visual element) and that of a more conventional exhibition pavilion where climate and light permeability are controlled.

The study of animals was employed whilst designing the Pavilion’s exterior skin. Shark scales were investigated and found to be ‘fascinating paradigms’ because of their appearance and capabilities. Hadid recognised that their pattern can easily wrap around complex curvatures with a simple system of rectilinear ridges and for the Bridge Pavilion, this proved to be functional, visually appealing and economical.

The Bridge Pavilion represents over 30 years of detailed research and examination by Zaha Hadid into bridge design. The result of these studies is a 5,700 ton glass-fibre reinforced concrete structure, covered in 29,000 triangles in different shades of grey and with the deepest foundations piles in Spain at 68m. Hadid said: “We like projects which are structurally ambitious and I think the Bridge Pavilion illustrates the excellent symbiotic relationship we have with engineers.” She adds: “Our ambitions towards creating fluid, dynamic and therefore complex structures has been aided by technological innovations, and applying this knowledge to the Bridge Pavilion has been a very rewarding process.”

Niki May Young
News Editor
architecture NOW

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