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La Roche-sur-Yon Footbridge | Bernard Tschumi [BTuA] and Hugh Dutton [HDA_Paris]

March 12, 2010

Our friends from HDA_Paris are sharing with us the latest images about their most recent collaboration with architect Bernard Tschumi: La Roche-sur-Yon Footbridge. The footbridge is a tubular lattice bridge that connects the old centre of Atlantic coast town with newer districts across the TGV railway tracks.

From the press-release:

The extension of the TGV train to La Roche-sur-Yon and nearby towns bordering the Atlantic marks not only an important moment for the modernization of the European and French train network, but also  an occasion to initiate civic improvements.  Linking the historic city founded by Napoleon (“the Pentagon”) with new neighborhoods, this pedestrian bridge crosses above high-speed railway tracks, providing an important urban connection for the town.

Conceived through joint collaboration between the fields of architecture and engineering, the bridge was designed by Bernard Tschumi and Hugh Dutton, with their respective teams in Paris and New York.  The teams developed the design for La Roche-sur-Yon as both a utilitarian vector of movement and a symbol of contemporary urban relationships.  The intention of the designers was to demonstrate an integration of an original structural system with an architectural concept developed from urban scale research of neighborhood identity and carried through the expression of the minutest details.


The new bridge replaces an existing structure, a standard railway design that can be found all over France, contemporary with and inspired by the work of Eiffel, using lateral beams composed of a diagonal mesh of small plate strips that are riveted together.  The design of the new bridge uses the same language of a diagonal mesh, but in a tubular from, to create a complete cylindrical volume through which the users pass. Footbridges over railways require lateral protection for safety of both the users and the trains below. The complete volume provides a single structural solution that possesses the necessary inertia to span between the available support points as well as provide support for the required protective screens and a canopy cover.

The triangulated mesh of the main structural tube is articulated to distinguish between the tensile and compression forces by using simple tie rods for the tensile members. The ties have no compressive capacity and express therefore the tensile zones. The compressive members are in ‘T’ or ‘H’ sections corresponding to the magnitude of forces in them. The section sizes of the members vary as a function of the loading to optimize the steel mass and further express the forces in the system. Mid-span, the lower chords are tensile, while the upper members are compressed. The inverse is true at the support points, where the bending moments are inverted. The shear forces in tubular truss are generally greater at the support points and tending more and more vertical the closer one approaches the supports. The pattern of triangulation of the truss follows this change in direction of forces. The general objective is to find a harmonious geometric composition that expresses the natural passage of forces.



TEAM: The complexity of the project required the expertise of in international team. Team leaders included Bernard Tschumi and Hugh Dutton, associated architect Veronique Descharrières within BTuA, and Pierluigi Bucci and Pierre Chassagne, engineers at HDA.  Jean-Marie Garnier of the SNCF managed the project for the client and coordinated implementation.

Bernard Tschumi and Hugh Dutton

Hugh Dutton Associates (HDA)

For more credits and info, visit Complexitys.

For more images, a complete photo-set here.

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