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The evolution of Calatrava's Bridge of Strings

by harry July 04 2008
Bridge of StringsCity planningMunicipal newsPhotography

Sketch of the Bridge of Strings

With projects rarely finishing even remotely according to schedule, construction in Jerusalem is so pervasive and continuous that it's hard to believe that work on the Bridge of Strings has finally ended (or has it?). The past six years of bridge building (and its limitations on our city's main circuits) has certainly been infuriating at times, but the result is unquestionably fascinating. Let's look back at the evolution of the bridge from the initial sketch by Santiago Calatrava to the completed architectural marvel.

We'll start off with some interesting (and not so interesting) facts about the bridge provided by the Jerusalem municipality and Moriah, the engineering company that constructed the bridge.

Location: The bridge is located near the main entrance to the city, near the Central Bus Station.

Reason: The bridge was built to carry Jerusalem's future light rail lines across a dense urban area, resolving traffic and pedestrian issues, and to create a new landmark for the entrance to the city.

Construction began: 2002

Inaugurated: June 25, 2008

Type of structure: Steel arch bridge, cable span bridge with pylon

Arch material: Steel

Abutments: Reinforced concrete, Mitzpe yellowish limestone

Walkway: Basalt cobblestone paving, glass, stainless steel

• Length of bridge: 360 meters (1,181 feet)
• Width of bridge: 14.82 meters (48.6 feet)
• Height of pylon: 118 meters (387 feet)
• Height of deck (clearance to street): 3.71 meters (12.2 feet)
• Longest open span (distance between abutments): 160 meters (535 feet)
• Distance between diaphragms: 4 meters (13 feet)
• Concrete: 5500 cubic meters (194,230 cubic feet)
• Pylon steel weight: 1,241 tons
• Deck steel weight: 2,720 tons
• Walkway steel weight: 48 tons

To accommodate this difficult site, Calatrava suggested a cable-stayed bridge with a single inclined pylon rising above the urban surroundings. The bridge deck itself spans over the busy traffic intersection of Shazar Blvd., curving in an elegant s-shape from Jaffa Rd. to Herzl Blvd. This free-spanning structure clears the way for a public plaza below and permits easy pedestrian crossing of the main traffic junction.

The slender and streamlined triangular-shaped steel box of the pylon is inclined backwards to show visible tension, as well as create a clear visual direction towards the city. The cables are arranged in a parabolic shape, which develops three-dimensionally in space, thus amplifying the impressive visual impact unique to this bridge. Overall the strings and form of this structure suggest a giant harp - the harp of King David as a symbol of the holy city - inspiring residents to refer to it as the "Bridge of Strings."

Below is a visual narrative of the bridge's construction, presented in chronological order, from concept to a structure worthy of pyro- and dance-enhanced dedication.

Preliminary drawing of Bridge of Strings

Bridge being constructed in a land far away.The bridge is delivered in the dead of night.

Construction site from the air.

Bypassers check out the construction of the new bridge.

The completed Bridge of Strings

Sketch of Bridge of Strings courtesy of Santiago Calatrava; digital rendering of Bridge of Strings courtesy of Ikan Mass Media; photographs of Bridge of Strings courtesy of Sasson Tiram.

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