IO + Buro Happold Collaborate on Bridge Success

IO and Buro Happold have won the design competition for the key signature gateway bridge for the new Shizimen Business District in Zhuhai, China. 

The feature bridge is the gateway entry to south China’s new planned commercial hub and also marks the connection of the Shizimen Canal to the Pearl River Delta.


The invited international design competition for the 300m long gateway bridge had 16 participating teams including international architects and engineers such as AEDAS, ARUP and Woods Bagot.

Working together in one of their first collaborations the IO and Buro Happold team set out to create a simple and elegant structural solution for a bridge that would be a visual focal point both within the Shizimen District itself and along the Pearl River Delta coastline.

The winning bridge scheme proposes an undulating ribbon of structure that wraps around the 6 lane road deck in a continuous sculptural loop form.   At low levels the loop cradles the road deck, with the structural ribbon then soaring upwards to create 2 triangulated arch forms.  


These triangular gateways, one primary and one secondary, then support the road deck over 2 separate distinct spans via suspension cables.   The primary triangulated gate is some 100m in height and by diagonally crossing the deck of the bridge celebrating not only the crossing of vehicular and pedestrian traffic, but also the meeting point of the canal with the Pearl River Delta.


The continuity of the loop structure is visible from the opposite mainland shoreline to the west, and appears as a dramatic free standing infinity loop.

As well as the gateway bridge the team was also placed 2nd & 3rd in the competition for two of the 4 secondary bridges crossing the canal.

The other placed schemes integrated both landscape and media within the design of the bridge structures to activate the edges of the more pedestrian scaled bridges.

Gordon Affleck of IO stated that “this was IO’s first real exposure to major bridge design and with a 300m waterway to cross it was critical that we  worked hand in hand with the creative engineering team at Buro Happold if we were to achieve our goal of creating an elegant and sculptural structure that at the same time would be structurally rational and efficient”.

David Emmer, Design Associate at IO stated that “the complex coastline conditions created an odd and asymmetric span, however we realized that by tying 2 simple parabolic arches together in a single ribbon form we could split the bridge into 2 simpler spans. Thereby keeping a rational structure while making a strong formal statement, in that the bridge when reflected off the water created a double 8 figure, a sign of prosperity in Chinese culture.”

Buro Happold’s Hayden Nuttall was delighted by the win, “it is great when a team really pulls together to create an eye catching design that is underpinned by elegant and efficient engineering. We are very much looking forward to taking this project forward with IO and the Client”.


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