Abstract: "Lessons in Remote Infrastructure: Connecting People and Landscape to Promote Economic Vitality & Create Social Value"

Dissing+Weitling, Mtentu Bridge, overview
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.

  • Msikaba 2 1
    The Msikaba and Mtentu exemplify how infrastructure is necessary to promote rual development and can prioritze the beauty of remote landscape to allow users to strengthen their connection to place.
  • Abstract

    Transportation systems offer opportunities to connect rural communities with economic possibility. Intentional infrastructure interventions connect citizens with resources and reduce travel time between remote and urban areas – creating sustainable value for entire economic regions. Remote infrastructure presents a tension between creating social value without destroying environmental value.

    Presenting two multi-bridge infrastructure projects in Norway and South Africa, Dissing+Weitling explores the opportunity for a design team to partner with local authorities to provide aesthetic interventions that align with environmental protection goals, increase connectivity for rural communities, and balance social value creation with the preservation of landscapes with high natural value.

  • Msikaba 1
  • 1. Design Intent Within Remote Infrastructure

    For rural communities, new road systems create gateways to access and economic vitality – while simultaneously challenging long-standing ways of living, working, and being in community with each other and nature. A key challenge for the development of remote infrastructure is to respond to these trade-offs and tensions – and to use the architectural design process as a gateway to maximize sustainable value creation across the triple bottom line.

    Dissing+Weitling offers two multi-bridge remote infrastructure projects in South Africa and Norway to demonstrate how design team partnership and stakeholder engagement can strengthen project outcomes.

    To frame for this investigation, it is important to note that all projects presented are incomplete. The value in their presentation lies in understanding how mobility architects approach a design within remote locations – how the relationship between client expectations, engineering parameters, and aesthetic considerations can together define user experiences with nature during the act of crossing.

  • Dissing+Weitling, Msikaba bridge, overview
  • 2. Eastern Cape South Africa

    As key parts of N2 Wild Coast Road Project, the Msikaba and Mtentu bridges provide safe crossing for road traffic over their respective rivers – and bring the promise of greater connectivity between rural populations with urban economic centres in the Eastern Cape. Although both infrastructure projects have not been without controversy, the design intention has been to propose holistically sustainable solutions: visually impactful yet minimalist crossings that ensure public safety, reduce transit time, and both respect and connect to the natural landscape.

    Both the Msikaba and Mtentu bridges offer a unique aesthetic opportunity: how can a bridge respond to the remoteness of the landscape in situ – in a way that is holistically sustainable? Could the act of crossing the bridge allow drivers to develop a deeper connection to the landscape? Dissing+Weitling’s approach to both the Msikaba and Mtentu was driven by the belief that the bridges must balance minimalism with a dramatic profile that speaks to the magnitude of their size, scale, and location. The experience of crossing the gorge must reinforce the user’s understanding of place – rather than separating the driver from nature, driving over the bridge provides direct views into the river valley.

  • Dissing Weitling Halsa Still B
    Visualization of Proposed Bridge Across Halsa Fjord.

    The Halsafjorden crossing – connecting the tiny town of Halsa to the other side of the fjord – is a TLP floating suspension structure. Spanning 2,080 metres, features diamond pylons with a maximum height of 187 metres.

  • 3. Sula and Halsa Fjord, Western Norway

    The Norwegian Public Roads Administration manages the E39 and is responsible for the implementation of a long-term national policy goal: a ferry-free coastal highway supporting efficient movement across Norway’s Western Coast. An examination of the pre-project phase investigation of potential crossings in the Sula and Halsa Fjords – including four proposed bridges at different alignments - provides insights into how proposed mobility solutions can deliver across two dimensions: ensure efficiency within the context of a larger road system – while using aesthetic expression to create a conversation between user and landscape during a specific crossing.

    The structure of the competitive investigation allows the design team to engage in robust scenario analysis. There are several direct benefits of this workflow to the project outcome: across the concept value chain all parties understand the impacts a wide variety of variables and design parameters will have on the aesthetic recommendations of each potential bridge. Regular engagement across stakeholder groups also allows for different systems thinking lenses to be applied to the same project.

    In the case of all four proposals, aesthetic opportunity stems from designing for user perception across different modalities. Understanding the needs for - and difference of -spatial feeling between car, bicycle, and foot traffic can widen the impact of a bridge. The total amount of time spent on a bridge varies greatly by modality – but mobility architecture must provide all users with a fundamental understanding of where you are and where you are going.

  • K1 K2 all overview
    Visualization three proposed crossing of Sulafjorden.
  • 4. Connecting People and Landscape

    At the heart of mobility architecture is the desire to ensure bridges and crossing infrastructure create the best possible user experiences. This requires an understanding of user profiles and an ability for the design team to be responsive to geographic considerations. In comparing the South African and Norwegian multi-bridge projects, we can see how designers’ partner across the infrastructure value chain to align economic priorities with environmental protection and social impact.

    Despite their differences in regional geography, both the N2 Wild Coast Road Project and the E39 Coastal Highway Route Project share a starting point: remote infrastructure is a change catalyst.

    How then can mobility architects support holistic sustainable value creation within remote infrastructure projects? The answer lies in using aesthetics to reinforce user perception and the design itself supporting not only human movement but human experience.

    Within complex infrastructure value chains, mobility architects are responsible for centring user perception – and this can be supported by multi-stakeholder collaboration processes that ensure all parties can robustly compare options, alternatives, and trade-offs.

  • The complete paper will be available soon.