A fascinating piece of infrastructure has sprung up in China’s Guangdong province.
Known simply as Timber Bridge in Gulou Waterfront, it is instantly identifiable as a blend of craftsmanship, heritage but also modernity as well.
Responsible for it is LUO Studio, a Chinese firm that has built its reputation on sustainable construction techniques, where minimum materials are used to create universal design.
This bridge embodies that and more.
It spans a waterway in an eco-cultural tourism resort in Jiangmen city, which aspires to revitalise the rapidly declining tradition of fishing in a water village.
Viewed from the air, the area is a patchwork of mounds of farmland interspersed with ponds and canals.
Bridges connect the different areas together, allowing people to cross from one side to the other, and boats to pass underneath.
Timber Bridge is the most outstanding of them all, spanning 25.2m and and serving both functions.
It links a street in the old town to a children’s recreation area and part of the reason for its unique identity is that it is closed up.
The intention, explains LUO Studio, is to manage the transition from a “practical” space of commerce to one that is relatively “dreamy”, allowing for a sense of ceremony during the journey.
The Bridge stands 1.35m higher than the water level and arches up to a maximum height of 2.8m, allowing larger tourist boats to pass through.
Its basic structure is composed of three curved beams arranged in parallel, with each divided into three, then connected and assembled by steel-strengthened bolts on site.
The decision to cover it – specifically with metal plates – is partially linked to tradition that dates back to the period of the Warring States.
It also helps to strengthen the structure and keep out the elements to prevent the materials from corroding.
The plane of the roof is a perfect rectangle, as are the sides, while the underside is curved, resulting in the middle being of a lower height.
To lend it variety, a viewing platform was added to each end of the bridge.
The complicated, interlocking sub-structural system is best admired when crossing the bridge, where its elaborate craftsmanship and details are displayed in all their triangular glory.
It also offers tantalising glimpses of the sparkling water below, framing the views and throwing poetic shadows on the floor to evoke a feeling of calm.
By evening, the bridge is illuminated to emphasise its elegant arch and when the light reflects in the water, is reminiscent of a piece of contemporary Chinese artwork.
The combined effect is simply beautiful and it is easy to imagine it might even inspire the locals to return and pick up fishing for a living again.