"The Floating Mast Bridge"
Within the framework of an invited competition, the Nir Ben Natan Architecture office was invited to propose a plan for a pedestrian and cycling bridge in Beer Sheva, a metropolitan city surrounded by desert. The bridge is to connect the existing city and a planned park that will be built about 300 meters south of the town, as part of the city’s accelerated and extensive urban development. At the present, there is a train track in the middle, which does not enable crossing, and which constitutes a physical boundary of the urban fabric, as does the broad wadi.
Adjacent to the urban fabric and above the train tracks, the bridge’s starting point has been planned as a continuation of the urban road. This section is shaded with trees characteristic of the area’s desert climate, with detached vegetation blending in with the constructed system, in order to gradually convey the experience of walking toward the park.
Further on, the bridge is shaded by a ceiling of radial rulers wider than the width of the pedestrian axis. This system requires very little maintenance over the years, and will also create changing patterns of shading during the day. On the circumferential beams of the ceiling a dynamic lighting system has been planned, which may be programmed. At the bottom of the bridge’s legs a lighting system has been planned to create various lighting performances - “fountains of light” - which may be combined with an audio system located at various places along the river and the town from which the bridge is viewed.
At the center of the bridge there is a unique element open to the sky, contrasting with most of the bridge that is covered, and given that the movement of people is from one open space to another - hence the uniqueness of the spatial situation at this point, above the middle of the wadi and at maximum height above the land.
Thus, an engineering scheme was developed using a single “floating” vertical mast to shift bridge load to the supports, as an iconic solution creating an urban brand and a unique identity.
This solution grants lightness to the mass of the bridge, so that it does not force itself upon the sensitive and unique landscape, while it does assert its echoing presence in a formal language that is both reductive and virtuoso. Cutting the bridge’s mass at this location by a dramatic engineering solution, represents an encounter between the urban fabric on one side of the bridge, and the desert landscape and its abstract primal characteristics on the other side.
During the day, this solution will enable the users to experience the magnificence of the surrounding space and serve both as an observation plaza as well as an active plaza. At night the desert skies will provide an additional experiential front of the bridge. The dramatic lighting on the floating mast will be a landmark point at night.