Snake-Like Bridge in Yuandang Lake

January 21, 2022



Catherine D. Ong

The China and Australia-based company Brearley Architects + Urbanists (BAU) thought of what they called a “hybrid structure” that would merge landscape, infrastructure and architecture by building pathways and nature for pedestrians and cyclists alike. So the team designed a 586-meter long beam bridge that resembled a snake, connecting two wetland areas across Yuandang Lake in Shanghai, China.

Running east-west across the southern end of the lake, the bridge now connects Shanghai municipality and Jiangsu province since opening for public use in 2020.

“The serpentine plan of both the park’s networks is adopted for the bridge, making it a smooth and formal extension. It also provides the benefit of varying progressive views, a Chinese classical garden principle.” – James Brearley, Director of BAU

“The bridge is a hybrid of several elements not usually seen in a bridge, combining vegetation, pavilions, sculptural play spaces and plazas with seating,” Mr. Brearley added. “The client did not plan on the vegetation or pavilion on the bridge, but embraced these initiatives.”

The steel columns are Y-shaped in support of the bridge’s box girder structure. On top is a snake-like pathway that expands in various areas, that includes a covered pavilion and places of rest that overlook the grandeur of Yaundang lake.

Pedestrian lanes and bike lanes are from the middle area, which would be embellished with plants, tree and even more greenery with seats and benches all over the bend of the bridge. At the Yuandang Bridge’s center, a large canopy made of hammered metal is supported by thin steel columns to shelter the entire pavilion. The intention was to place a playground and more seating areas here, where a tunnel composed of perforated white metal sheets is incorporated.

“The pavilion playground is based on a minimal surface mathematical model. We first explored minimal surfaces in our playground designs with rope nets and solid forms 15 years ago,” Mr. Brearley elaborated. “Maximum perforation giving transparency is achieved where the load is lowest and minimal perforation where the surface requires strength.”

A glowing effect is created due to the lighting elements placed on the walkway’s base, so people visiting at night could experience such an incredible spectacle. Lights are also installed along the seating areas, along the balustrades. The entire area is sufficiently illuminated, as shadows and reflections are projected on the pavilion playground and resting places. The Yuandang Snaking Bridge is indeed one of the relaxing places to visit when in Shanghai.

Photos by Zhu Runzi

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