A bridge is a symbolic piece of architecture: it not only fulfills the function of connecting two geographically separated places, but also represents an ideal; it is a monument celebrating the union between different cultures, ethnicities and countries.
The Tbilisi Peace Bridge, designed in January 2009 by architect Michele De Lucchi's firm, now AMDL CIRCLE, was strongly desired by the then President of Georgia, Mikheil Saak'ashvili, who inaugurated it in 2010. Its roof, a synthesis of a fruitful dialogue between architecture and engineering, appears as a single transparent and luminous leaf-shaped membrane.
The Peace Bridge is located on the Mtkvari River and connects the old Bericoni neighborhood with Rike Park, the "gateway" to the more recently built Tbilisi: at the point where the bridge rises, the river divides the western, the most historic and ancient part of the city from the eastern part, creating a sharp split in the urban fabric. The bridge reunites the two portions of the city, right at the point where camels traveling along the Silk Road crossed the river: it consists of a pedestrian footbridge 160 m long and 4.80 m wide in the central portion, formed by a slender metal structure and a sinusoidal-shaped roof made of steel lattice girders and glass plates. The roof behaves as a single lightweight, shell-like membrane under which the footbridge appears to be suspended: it is in fact anchored to the two banks of the river only by means of four fork pillars.
Tbilisi is a city marked by a recent controversial past and an extremely fragmented cultural, social and political framework: the capital of Georgia seeks a national identity and a role as a promoter of the country's economic and social revitalization also through investment in modern infrastructure and fine architecture, characterizing the landscape. The Peace Bridge is one such case: it encapsulates symbolic and cultural instances as well as practical and infrastructural needs, posing as a monument representing the union between past and present, between the city's historic core to the west and the new neighborhoods that have grown up on the bank to the east.
The bridge is an ideal continuation of Rike Park, accompanying pedestrians to the historic downtown core. But it is not just a transit element: at the center of the structure is created a plaza from which citizens can enjoy a privileged vantage point over the city. In turn, the innovative materials and sinuous forms make it a strongly recognizable element in the city fabric, as if it were a beacon, an element of orientation and identification.
The design arose from simple geometric concepts: the curve defining the extrados of the roof is generated by three tangent circumferences; on the curve defined by their union runs the vertex of a parabola with the concavity pointing downward, which defines the primary arches of the roof. Another curve, generated by five tangent circumferences, cuts the lower branches of the parabola and marks the desired shape.
The high seismic risk zone, the dynamic stresses due to the transit of people and the strong gusts of wind that characterize the area have imposed specific studies, carried out with careful and sophisticated analysis techniques, in order to determine the safety coefficients necessary to guarantee resistance toward such events.
The metalwork was made from custom-cut, calendered and welded-together tubular round sections. Some portions were pre-assembled in the workshop: in order to verify the results obtained by calculation using the finite element method, load tests were carried out on prototype joints, made to a scale of 1:1.
The enclosure of the roof consists of a series of flat sheets of tempered and laminated glass, held in place by coupling devices placed in the gap between glass and glass, without the need for drilling, and sealed to the cavity. The glass was cold deformed, forming it on the predetermined surface by the primary metalwork structure, through the same connection mechanisms.
The assembly took place on a riverbank, and the launching was carried out through the use of two barges, on which the bridge was temporarily supported, to be placed in its final position.
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