Abstract: "Bridges as Built Heritage: Preservation, Reimagination, Transformation"

Dissing+Weitling, Queensferry Crossing, overview, VisitScotland
October 4, 2023

Dissing+Weitling attended the IABSE New Delhi Congress 2023 giving five speaches and submitting ditto papers about the work we do within the field of mobility. This is one of five abstract.

  • Dissing Weitling Queensferry Crossing view
    Queensferry Crossing.
  • Abstract

    From ancient civilizations to thriving industrial cities, mobility infrastructure provides safe crossings and promotes economic vitality within both urban and rural communities. Bridges provide rituals of movement connecting users to key parts of our collective cultural identity. Built heritage is a form of placemaking – and the preservation of built heritage creates both environmental and social value.

    Dissing+Weitling presents three unique projects to illustrate how cities can balance infrastructure and public safety demands with cultural heritage. Scotland’s Queensferry Crossing, Canada’s Samuel De Champlain Replacement Bridge, and Switzerland’s Zweite Hinterrheinbrücke provide examples of how bridge architecture can reinforce cultural heritage while adapting to modern safety and user needs for safe crossing – whether through ensemble, replacement, or expansion of heritage infrastructure.

  • Dissing+Weitling, Samuel De Champlain Bridge, under construction, The Globe and Mail
    Samuel de Champlain Bridge Alongside Original Champlain Bridge. Photo: Sebastian St-Jean.
  • 1. Bridges as Built Heritage

    Mobility infrastructure is built to last: with intended lifespans of centuries rather than decades, it is an inevitability of bridge design to consider how local communities will not only functionally benefit but also find cultural relevance and pride within their routine crossings.

    Where local planning authorities must balance competing demands to accommodate increased traffic volume, public safety, and environmental impact – mobility architecture can provide a complementary pathway to socially sustainable value creation. By incorporating cultural heritage considerations into the evaluation of a project’s stakeholders, function, and form, infrastructure development can be seen as a placemaking effort.

    Dissing+Weitling presents three unique cases to demonstrate how infrastructure development can create social value through the lens of cultural heritage. Each project exemplifies how considerations of built heritage can widen the scope of a project’s community relevance beyond economic vitality and assurance of public safety. These cases attempt to answer the question: how can mobility architecture reinforce cultural heritage while providing safe crossing?

  • Dissing Weitling Queensferry Crossing view from field
    With a span of 2.7km, Queensferry Crossing is the longest three-tower cable-stayed brdige in the world.

    Together with its sister structures, Queensferry Crossing is the newest member of the ‘Forth Bridges’ – an ensemble of three bridges across three centuries.

  • 2. Queensferry Crossing

    Queensferry Crossing is both an innovative stand-alone bridge and a carefully planned cultural heritage development. Completed in 2017, the bridge crosses the River Forth (locally Firth of Forth) to connect Edinburgh to the County of Fife.

    For all its landmark qualities, Queensferry Crossing is first and foremost an ensemble bridge. With an alignment alongside the UNESCO World Heritage-listed 19th-century Forth Bridge and the 20th-century long-span suspension Forth Bridge – Queensferry Crossing can be viewed in direct conversation with complementary infrastructure across functions, aesthetic styles, and temporal dimensions.

    Queensferry Crossing provides a case for how three distinct objectives – traffic solution, landmark architecture, and cultural heritage development – can be unified to create social value. The bridges themselves are not merely crossings – but connection points to the history of the region and they provide locals with a tangible sense of place. The addition of Queensferry Crossing can thus be seen as strengthening these cultural connections – reinforcing history and connecting past to future.

  • 101a
    Visualization of Samuel De Champlain Bridge.

    The Samuel de Champlain Bridge was a necessary and vital replacement project with an incredibly difficult time horizon – seven years from concept to completion.

  • 3. Samuel De Champlain

    The Samuel de Champlain Bridge was a necessary and vital replacement project with an incredibly difficult time horizon – seven years from concept to completion. The Original Champlain Bridge – a steel cantilever bridge – had reached the end of its useful life after fifty years. A major expressway connecting Montreal and its suburbs, it was not an option for the original structure to be reinforced or transformed. Moreover, it was essential to local planning authorities that the connection to the originally built heritage was not severed during construction and demolition – setting the stage for a parallel replacement which provided a rich juxtaposition of the decommissioning of a local icon with the emergence of a new landmark.

    Despite the inherent nature of demolishing the existing bridge, The Samuel De Champlain Bridge can still be viewed in this context as a socially sustainable development project. Both the bridge as a product and the stakeholder engagement initiatives as a process – ensured that the replacement project could respect both past and present while ensuring a safe and dynamic future.

  • Dissing+Weitling, Zweite Hinterrheinbrücke, Stéphane Braune
    Zweite Hinterrheinbrücke.

    The Zweite’s minimalist design belies its sophistication: it supports two train lines without narrowing the roadway, achieved through the integration of the retaining walls into the Alpine landscape.

  • 4. Zweite Hinterrheinbrücke

    Completed in 2019, Zweite Hinterrheinbrücke is a sleek ‘little sister’ to the historically listed 1895 Erste Hinterrheinbrücke – a half-timber truss bridge supporting the UNESCO Listed Albula and Bernina Alpine train routes.

    The new 200-metre crossing over two main Rhine tributaries, Zweite is an ensemble bridge alongside the original structure – providing necessary structural relief to support both a train line and a motorway – and allowing the original bridge to be transformed into a footbridge for hikers. A key priority of the bridge expression was to not compete with the Erste Hinterrheinbrücke – but rather serve as the new rail connection without de-centering the original infrastructure. The new bridge is in service of the old, rather than a replacement.

    The Zweite Hinterrheinbrücke is a cultural heritage driver: its role as an ensemble structure preserves the existing built heritage and cultural connections of the UNESCO-listed train lines – while simultaneously expanding the number of user groups who have access to and can benefit from the Alpine natural environment.

    The visual impact of the Zweite’s elegance, therefore, is an active tool used to reinforce the region’s cultural heritage.

  • Dissing+Weitling, Zweite Hinterrheinbrücke, Roman Sidler
    Zweite Hinterrheinbrücke. Photo: Roman Sidler.

    A key priority of the bridge expression was to not compete with the Erste Hinterrheinbrücke – but rather serve as the new rail connection without de-centering the original infrastructure. The new bridge is in service of the old, rather than a replacement.

  • 5. Cultural Heritage Drivers

    Together, these three bridges provide alternative perspectives on the mechanisms for social value creation within the built environment. All three-leverage cultural heritage to deliver positive social impact – but the approaches diverge based on site context, regional planning time horizons, and user needs.

    Across ensemble and replacement bridges, a throughline emerges new infrastructure that can support the evolution of cultural heritage within the built environment. Whether preserving existing infrastructure by diverting traffic, supporting the transformation of existing infrastructure into a second life, or providing something completely new in the face of structural decline – safe crossings have the potential to reinforce cultural heritage and create long-term social value for communities.

  • The complete paper will be available soon.