When building bridges, designers do not often think about making their bridge round, but that is exactly what Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly did.
The bridge spanning the Laguna Garzón in Uruguay just opened to the public and it has people wondering why such a structure was ever built. In sharp contrast to many purely architectural projects, this bridge actually has a need and purpose.
Designers of the bridge wanted to devise a way to slow down traffic while also forcing them to look out and appreciate the environment around them. The non-traditional circular design was selected through years of governmental debate. The bridge has a radius of 51.5 meters bracketed by two straight sections at the entrances measuring 46 meters. This design incredibly allowed for two lanes of traffic while creating a lagoon in the center that can be used for fishing.
“The concept of the Puente Laguna Garzón was to transform a traditional vehicular crossing into an event that reduces the speed of the cars, to provide an opportunity to enjoy panoramic views to an amazing landscape, and at the same time create a pedestrian place in the centre,” said architect Rafael Viñoly.
Construction began in late 2014 and the project opened to the public just over a year later. The entire roadway cost an estimated $11 million, with $10 million coming from private funding. Unlike many architectural projects, this one was actually needed. Prior to the bridges construction, cars wishing to cross between the counties of Maldonado and Rocha would have to individually load onto a raft and cross the water. Now, over 1000 cars are estimated to use the new bridge every day, making their commutes much faster than before.
The Uruguayan government is hoping to usher in a new era for the country, focusing more on tourism and sustainability. Uruguay received 2.9 million visitors in 2015, a sharp increase from the previous year. Through the construction of this bridge, officials seek to drive visitors and locals to the largely undeveloped coastline of Rocha.
Circular bridges aren't uncommon, however they are rarely meant for road traffic. The Laguna Garzón bridge combines the beauty of a circular structure with key functional aspects of its design and the wonder of the landscape.
While the project does not garner its attention from extreme size, the bridge is gaining a lot of interest, just as designers and officials intended.