João Luis Carrilho da Graça Bridge 07.07.10

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image: Sérgio Guerra/FG+SG

A bridge is a chance to show off for many architects. With a simple programme and the opportunity for expressive engineering, it's a job where they can let their hair down. João Luís Carrilho da Graça's new pedestrian bridge in Covilhã, in the mountains of Portugal, is a little bit different, however.

Instead of loosening the engineering, Carrilho da Graça has tightened it right up. The deck is a simple box shape lined with timber, silhouetted boldly against the sky. This simplicity is accentuated by the main columns being given exactly the same profile as the deck. Indeed, the cladding is as seamless as you get. It looks like a diagram of a bridge rather than anything real. A couple of smooth turns add interest to the composition: "The central bay is perpendicular to the line of the valley," says da Graça, while "the other two sections are inflected and oriented towards their anchoring points." The details of the "landings" are well executed, the decking extending out onto the street.

The strangest features of the bridge are the two smaller columns: circular in cross-section and adorned with a spiralling pre-cast concrete detail, they're like something from another time, abstractions of the famous "apprentice's pillar" in Rosslyn chapel, Scotland, adding an extra surreal dimension to an already ethereal project.

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At 52m above ground, the bridge offers stunning vistas (image: Sérgio Guerra/FG+SG)



Douglas Murphy

quotes story

The class divider is decorated with dotted chains that are supposed to represent a bead curtain

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The inside is clad with timber (image: Sérgio Guerra/FG+SG)

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