The Park Union Bridge of Diller Scofidio + Renfro: a Dynamic Loop That Connects Colorado Springs
Project Title: Park Union Bridge
Location: Colorado Springs, CO, USA
Architects: Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Anderson Mason Dale Architects
Design Client: City of Colorado Springs
Structural engineer: Arup
Steel fabricator: KING Fabrication
The structural engineer for bridge abutments: KL&A
Railroad consultant: Felsburg Holt &. Ullevig and FUHueng
The general contractor for the project: Kiewit Construction
Lighting Design: Tillotson Design Associates
Diller Scofidio + Renfro complemented its fluid volume of the US Olympic and Paralympic museum with a 250-foot ‘Park union Bridge’. The elegantly curved steel structure is inspired by the forms of the athletes and their seemingly gravity-defying motions as it floats 7.6 m above ground level. The newly unveiled ‘Park Union Bridge’ pays reverence to its context and connects the museum to America the Beautiful Park in Colorado.
“The bridge is a fitness exercise, both in terms of material and geometry,” said Diller Scofidio + Renfro lead designer Benjamin Gilmartin, “The hybrid steel structure functions as an arch and a truss, elegantly preserving views from Downtown to the majestic ranges of Pikes Peak.”
The varying widths and height of the bridge along the full length of the Park Union Bridge alongside the curving steel display a seemingly animate structure that flows over the railroads from the museum to the green park. Built specifically for pedestrians and cyclists, Diller Scofidio + Renfro took care not to widen the bridge too much in an attempt to streamline the form and emphasize the dynamism of the looping steel.
An idea that arose from public and private visions, Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Park Union bridge stitches the two public areas via an experience that stays true to its context. Wide enough to provide safe passage to both pedestrians and cyclists, the Park Union Bridge is 4.9 m wide at the ends and 7m wide in the middle.
At the widest, the two curving steel structures form an oculus that captures the dramatic views of the rocky mountains to the west. The elegantly curving bridge seems to wrap around its travellers, in a futuristic way, as if the bridge had a life of its own.
A single vector of lighting starts from one end of the track and ends at another, inducing a feeling of fast dynamism within the bridge in the evenings. The curved form that creates a loop is a dynamic element that adds to the eccentricity of this bridge. The lighting further accentuates this form by adding a sense of awe to it.
Diller Scofidio + Renfro envisioned a modular design that fits in perfectly between the organic green landscape of the park and the fluidic volume of the US Olympic and Paralympic museum. The 550-ton bridge hovers over a railroad track whose operations had to be paused for an 8-hour window to transport the prefabricated bridge into place on abutments.
King Fabrication manufactured the bridge in Houston, Texas, before its arrival in Colorado Springs. The deck is made of four sections of concrete and fabricated steel section loops over the track. The painted structural steel elements and the steel cables take the load of this ingenious suspension bridge. The material palette and the hybrid steel structure system make for an extremely durable bridge.
To test its structural stability, the Park Union Bridge underwent wind-tunnel testing with a scale aeroelastic model. These tests confirmed that it met the suspension bridge requirements despite its hybrid design and structure.
Kiewit, a construction company, began the on-ground assembly of the six sections and prepared the Park Union Bridge for final placement on the abutments in June 2020. This assembly ran on a carefully pre-planned schedule to fit into the 8-hour window provided by the suspended railroad operations.
Its prefabricated body reduces the suspension of the railroad operations to a mere 8-hour window and is an indication of new-world architecture keeping up with the unstoppable efficiency of the advancing world.
The Park Union Bridge forms a connection from the west into downtown with design elements that include an elevator, a staircase, ADA and bike-friendly accommodations with bicycle wells, and an overlook at the wet end of the bridge. The staircase loops around the glass elevator on the west end of the bridge.
This pedestrian and cyclist pathway connects local pathways like the Pikes Peak Greenway and the Midland Trail using the America The Beautiful Park and the US Olympic and Paralympic Museum as intermediate stops.
Diller Scofidio + Renfro partner-in-charge, Benjamin Gilmartin adds, “We were thrilled to witness members of the colorado springs community take ownership of this unique bridge, not just as a means of connecting point A to B, but as a new landmark. Families paused at the oculus to take in views of the museum, the park, and the majestic mountain ranges of pikes peak.”
He further continues, “Cyclists gliding along its 250-foot length reached out to touch its smooth curving steel arch. On this special independence day weekend, visitors marvelled not only at the trains they were hovering above but at an amazing display of fireworks in the distance.”
The Park Union Bridge doesn’t just tie two sections of colorado together, it revolutionizes bridge design and embraces timelessness in its simple yet elegant form. Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Park Union Bridge sheds light on the dynamic and yet lightweight elegance of bridge designs of the future.
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