TURKU – Pontek Oy – a small Finnish engineering firm – has combined an economy of means with an economy of form and produced an exceptionally subtle pedestrian bridge over the Aura River in Turku, creating a shortcut to the city’s modern library.

‘One of our main ideas was to seamlessly align the ends of the bridge to the most natural paths on the river banks, which were not on the same line. This led to the slight s-form of the bridge,’ says Hanna Hyvönen, one of the two architects on the design team – along with Teo Tammivuori – both regular collaborators with Pontek Oy’s engineers. ‘Concrete was the natural choice for this kind of curving main structure due to its plasticity. So the material follows the form that follows the function.’

The particular elegance of the bridge stems not only from its sinuous form and the restrained manner in which it touches down, but also the attention that the architects and engineers paid to the balustrade. ‘We wanted to have a massive wooden top rail that would allow relaxed leaning, but needed an almost immaterial support to emphasize the concrete form. That’s how we came up with the idea of glass slats as the only supporting structure of the railing,’ Hyvönen explains.

During the night, the glass slats are illuminated – courtesy of an internally integrated system – transforming the bridge into a floating ribbon of light. ‘When both architects and engineers understand each others’ wishes, aims and reasoning, the design work is more than just one discipline’s mission. We always judge every idea from many viewpoints. This creates openness in communication and makes it possible to have free-flowing brainstorms where all ideas are treated equally,’ the architect concludes.

Photos Tuomas Uusheimo