Text: Meghna Mehta
Location: Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, India
Designer: Monk Mackenzie + Novare
WAF Shortlisted Category: WAF Future Buildings | Infrastructure
MMA was invited to design a 500 metre long pedestrian bridge located at the southern most tip of India. The project is envisioned to connect the mainland of India to the Thiruvalluvar Statue and Vivekananda Temple, allowing pilgrims to visit both islands currently served by boats.
The area was heavily damaged in the 2004 Asian tsunami and hence the Indian lotus was employed as a symbol of renewal, its morphology used in the form of the bridge. The sweep of the bridge from the mainland to the two islands has been designed as a curve to allow for simultaneous views of the statue and temple along the bridge.
The scheme employs two formal components; a sculpted deck and a formation of leaves or petals that provide shade along the route. The first is a highly sculpted and modular concrete deck that appears to visually float above the water, touching down only lightly at twenty metre spans. The second, is a language of concrete leaves or petals, that have been modulated with the rhythm of the deck to create a sculptural quality to the bridge while shading it.
The bridges are highly modular and efficient – the 400 metre Thiruvalluvar bridge is composed of twenty concave spans, while the 100 metre Vivekananda bridge is formed from five convex spans. The deck is designed with a nominal width of six metres to allow for the anticipated volume of pilgrims. The height of the petals is seven metres at its apex, curving around the deck to structurally connect to its column.
It was important that the form of the bridges did not compete with either the Thiruvalluvar statue or Vivekananda temple and the material would resonate. The material of the bridge therefore is a weathered concrete, with a stratified or sedimentary layered effect to create a sense of timelessness. At dusk the petals are lit from below and this serves to create a punctuated rhythm as well as the general lighting to the deck surface. It was again important that neither the daytime or dusk modes of the bridge overpowered the islands they served.
What makes this project unique?
“The project – a bridge, intended to connect the mainland of the southern Indian tip to the two islands, symbolizes renewal after the Asian tsunami damaged the areas. To generate this symbolism and connect it to Indian culture, the organic nature of the Lotus was used to create the curved shape and also its petals and leaves that shade the bridge. Picturesque visuals along the way, lighting and durable materials have been used to create a sense of timelessness and hence an impactful experience for the visitors.”
Why do you think this project stands out and will excel at WAF?
“The Thiruvalluvar and Vivekananda bridges are a hugely culturally significant project for India.
Several thousand people visit the sites daily via ferry services and the bridge replaces these with a highly sculptural yet subtle and delicate scheme. The bridge is designed to resonate with and be in harmony with the temple and the statue. It was important that it did not try to compete with or overpower the religious sites.
The project aspires to be a simple, subtle and elegant scheme that adds to the power and drama of the site.”