Beijing-based practice, LUO Studio is known for its innovative use of timber in buildings and pushing the agenda of sustainability and restoring local craftsmanship through its projects. The studio’s latest work — ‘Arched timber bridge’ on Gulou Waterfront — does just that.
Located in Jiangmen City, Gulou has a long tradition of fishing and farming due to its unique water system. This natural topography and lack of roads meant these water systems were a key route of transportation for nearby villages in the past. The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area has been undergoing rapid urbanisation, which has resulted in many villages giving up the fishing lifestyle for a more urban one.
Gulou Waterfront seeks to reverse this by developing and branding this area as an eco-cultural tourism resort, with hopes of rural revitalisation. The resort features a local water system which provides access for small fishing vessels and tour ships.
The timber bridge by LUO Studio is one of the many bridges on this property, but its intricate geometry and wooden construction set it apart. The arched bridge is 25 metres in length and features a 2.8-metre arched structure, forming a 4-metre passage for tour boats to pass through.
Steps on either side lead visitors to the upper corridor, which are fitted with viewing platforms on either side. A skylight of about 1.5 metres fills the space below with plenty of light, giving the space a contemplative quality.
“As they continue to climb the bridge, the bright light refracted by the upper and lower metal plates attract them to look out through the side gaps. Such a special "collected" viewing experience distinguishes this timber bridge from other open bridges,” said Luo Yujie, founder of LUO Studio.
The bridge is built using three large curved beams as main structural components, each arranged parallel to the other with a 2.8 metres spacing between them. It features a covered corridor which according to the architect, “aims to accentuate the transition” between the commercial street area and the children's recreation space on the other side.
The style of covered corridors on bridges dates back in China and architects choose this to further strengthen the bridge structure while keeping the moisture and sun away from the wooden structure.
Responding to the abundant rain in the west of Pearl River Delta, the upper structure is covered with a layer of metal plates, providing protection and a sense of cohesion inside.
The sub-structural system is also made using small wooden sections — interlocked and anchored to the three main beams, functioning as sub-beams.
“In addition, the two ends of these sub-beams are combined with upward components to form a stable triangle of forces,” explains Luo. He continues, “The small-section sub-structural system not only enhances the sense of structure in the corridor space but also reveals the elaborate craftsmanship and details to visitors on tour boats and offers them a unique visual experience.”
The bridge was mostly assembled and built on-site by hand, with only three main beams requiring machinery assistance.
Project name: Timber Bridge in Gulou Waterfront
Client: Jiangmen OCT Co., Ltd.
Design studio: LUO studio (www.luostudio.cn)
Design / construction instruction: Luo Yujie, Lu Zhuojian, Wang Beilei
Structural consulting: LaLu Structural Consulting
Construction firm: Shenzhen Zhenhui Architectural Engineering Co., Ltd.
Wood material suppliers: SHENGTEHAOSEN, KINGSPINE-HOUSE
Lighting fixture supplier: Meteor Shower
Location: Gulou Waterfront, Jiangmen, Guangdong, China
Photography: Jin Weiqi
Video production: Jin Weiqi, Xiao Shiming
Total spatial area: 166 square meters
Wooden bridge body size: 25.2m*7.3m*8.6m
Main materials: pine wood, concrete, aluminum plate, glass
Start time: March 2021
Completion time: January 2022
LUO studio pays attention to sustainable construction, and advocates using minimum materials to create more "universal" space. We insist on applying natural materials to construction, study and design wooden buildings that adopt prefabricated steel and wood structures, and work to build a connection with Oriental traditional timber constructions through utilizing local techniques. We explore creative ways to solve some social problems, such as the approaches of reusing temporary buildings to the maximum extent possible. In addition to conventional projects, we're committed to improving activity and learning spaces for children in backward areas, and focus on the innovative reuse of abandoned spaces and materials in urban and rural areas. Moreover, we work to promote the construction of ecological farms and communities based on "Permaculture" concept, and engage in and initiate workshops on sustainable construction.