Bridge
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Shi Ling

Canyon Footbridge, 2009

Architect: Tonkin Liu
Client: Arup 
Location: Yunnan, China
Size: 75 m (span)
Structure: Arup
Royal Academy Summer Exhibition
AJ/Lend Lease Award

Shi Ling Stone Forest in Yunnan, China, provides a dramatic natural backdrop to demonstrate the shell lace principles learnt from nature. This lightweight bridge spans 75 metres using a single sheet material of 15mm thickness. The structure is composed of three asymmetrical arches that spring from a single supporting column and three triangular torsion beams that form the curving routes. The bridge provides views and high-level pedestrian and cycle access across one of many valleys through the vast limestone karst landscape of Yunnan.

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Shell Lace Structure is a technique inspired by nature. Seashells gain strength from optimised curvilinear geometry, locking in stiffness with corrugation. Lightness is achieved through perforation, creating highly-efficient and responsive structures with minimum weight and wastag

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springing from a single column,
spanning across one of the many valleys, 
through the limestone karst landscape of Yunnan,
three horizontal curving torsion beams that form the three routes

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The technique has been developed through research and experiment with digital modelling, digital analysis, and digital fabrication tools. The design process is intuitive, analytical and iterative. Three-dimensional geometries are built up virtually from conjoined developable surfaces. These surfaces are unzipped at the seams, unrolled and nested allowing efficient computer aided cutting from a flat sheet material. The cut profiles are reassembled to create the final three-dimensional form.

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