- Date published
- 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.
From small footpaths to large ocean spans, bridges connect people, reduce travel time, and generate economic opportunity. Successful mobility solutions strengthen social cohesion and provide a strong sense of place to local communities. Today’s infrastructure must deliver an ever-increasing list of ESG outcomes. Within complex infrastructure value chains, architects can collaborate with engineering partners to prioritize social sustainability and centre the human user within the design process.
Dissing+Weitling presents three bridges across a spectrum of functions to demonstrate how design can be a key driver of social impact and sustainability outcomes. Together, the Great Belt Fixed Bridge, Køge Nord Station, and the Bicycle Snake present a case for bridge design as social value drivers through landmark placemaking, improvement of urban life, and universal design.
1. Mobility Architecture as Social Sustainability Driver
A bridge is an opportunity: a functional solution to a mobility problem, a safe crossing for human users. This holds true regardless of scale or geography – the smallest pedestrian bridges can fundamentally transform both individual and communal rituals of movement just as meaningfully as a large ocean crossing.
Mobility architecture drives social impact by centring the human user. In striving for long-lasting infrastructure that provides focal points for good experiences, bridges hold the potential to be socially sustainable across scales and geographies.
The nature of a bridge’s potential for social value creation is embedded within the mobility problem it seeks to solve. Therefore, architects facilitate a collaborative discovery process with the entire project development value chain. A comparison of three Danish bridges – Great Belt Fixed Link, Køge Nord Station, and the Bicycle Snake – provides insight into how centring social sustainability within the design process can lead to better social sustainability outcomes. Each case serves as an example of how mobility architecture can result in social value creation across project scales, user groups, and social sustainability themes.
2. The Great Belt Fixed Link
The Great Belt Fixed Link changed the social fabric of Denmark forever. In replacing the ferry service from Zealand to Funen and providing efficient crossing over Sprogø Island via a combined suspension bridge and railway tunnel, Danes gained both literal and symbolic connection. Today a symbol of Danish engineering, design, and craftsmanship excellence, the Great Belt Fixed Link is an example of how large-scale contemporary mobility solutions can be embraced as symbols of national identity.
Practically, the bridge enhances the connection of trains and motorists between Zealand and Funen – and eases travel throughout Denmark. Reduced transit time between islands from one hour to twelve minutes increases for individuals and businesses to move between population centres. Becoming a part of Danish cultural heritage – how citizens embrace, celebrate, and live alongside the bridge is a testament to the infrastructure’s ability to both impact quality of life and serve as a visual landmark.
The grand scale of the Great Belt Fixed Link allows the bridge system to transcend from transit solution to national cultural heritage. In the elegance and simplicity of the rising pylons and receding suspension, The Great Belt Fixed Link has been embraced as a symbol of Danish design excellence – creating both tangible and intangible social value.
Located 35 km south of Copenhagen, Køge is a rapidly developing part of the Greater Capital Region. Alongside a project brief for a pedestrian bridge connecting two train lines over a highway, Dissing+Weitling and COBE participated in a master planning process with Køge Nord Station as the first step in a larger redevelopment.
3. Køge Nord Station
Køge Nord Station is more than a commuter railway station – it is a transit pathway allowing users to move seamlessly from car to foot to high-speed rail. Connecting Greater Copenhagen’s S-Train system to a new high-speed rail line between Copenhagen and Ringsted, Køge Nord Station is simultaneously a transit hub, a train station, and a safe crossing across the busy Køge Bay Motorway.
With a distinctive architectural expression that is both a point of entry and departure from Køge – the station bridge represents the connectivity and dynamism of public transit – incentivizing green mobility.
Køge Nord Station is a social sustainability driver: as a transit hub, the station provides access to sustainable urban mobility for a wide spectrum of users – and ensures easy access to economic and educational opportunity, as well as health services. By promoting alternatives to car commuting, the station also inspires greater wellbeing by reducing sedentary behavior.
From a building regulations perspective, the station performs well with regard to accessibility performance – however the nature of the architecture goes further. Embracing Universal Design principles – Køge Nord Station is a designed environment ensuring as many users as possible can access the site.
Dissing+Weitling's mobility architectural team was highly familiar with the pathway, having designed the joint pedestrian and bicycle Quay Bridge in 2006.
4. The Bicycle Snake
The Bicycle Snake reflects how the local municipality intentionally prioritized sustainable urban mobility – and how the user experience of a bicycle bridge can unlock urban space and increase commuter wellbeing. The Bicycle Snake creates social value across two dimensions: the direct impact on the quality of life of cyclists and the indirect impact of uplifting urban space.
The Bicycle Snake is both an experience and a destination. The ritual of movement across the path during peak commute hours creates a shared experience for over 12,500 daily cyclists. The user experience of the cyclist is embedded within the project’s design DNA. In prioritizing the user, the bridge allows for Copenhagen’s cyclists to place themselves within the city – while also allowing the city itself to embrace its cycling identity.
Moving on the Bicycle Snake, the user is given a brief opportunity within their commute to be only cyclists. Transitioning onto the elevated platform, users are freed from the traffic considerations of pedestrians and cars. Allowed a brief moment to relax, take a breath, and be grounded in the experience of cycling. The user is therefore given an opportunity to connect with urban space in a different way.
5. Movement as Danish Design
What these projects share is a commitment to answering the question: what do you feel when crossing? They are grounded in the design ethos that to incentivize sustainable mobility, the infrastructure must give something back to the community at large. Together, these three Danish bridges highlight how connectivity is both highly contextual - and that the user context is the key to unlocking the eventual aesthetic solution. Through the mobility architecture process – and grounded in the unique user needs – bridge design can drive social value creation across infrastructure scales.