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Mike SCHLAICH Mike Schlaich, born 1960 in

Prof. Dr. sc. techn. Cleveland-Ohio, received his civil
engineering and Dr. degree from the
Technische Universitt Berlin, ETH Zrich. He is managing director
Germany of Schlaich Bergermann and Partner,
www.massivbau.tu-berlin.de Stuttgart, Berlin, New York and
and Schlaich Bergermann und Professor at the Technische
Partner Universitt in Berlin.

Designing a bridge so that the local context is taken into consideration allows for indigenous
construction, i.e. employing local methods, materials and labour. Several cable-stayed bridges are
described to exemplify that design based on local context may lead to a large variety of structural
solutions. Following such principles the present trend towards signature bridges frequently
requested by clients can be used to improve our infrastructure with elegant and economic bridges.

Keywords: cable-stayed bridges, conceptual design, structural design, signature structures, context

1. Introduction
Minimising material quantities by logical design and cost by indigenous construction while
achieving stability, durability and beauty at the same time is the classic approach to the design of
engineering structures. These principles will stay though in recent years and perhaps triggered by
the Millennium Projects in Great Britain or the desire to profit from the "Bilbao effect", the
vocabulary of clients has changed. In bridge design iconic structures and landmark
or signature bridges have become frequent requests. This trend specifically affects the design of
cable-stayed bridges, which today are perhaps the most elegant and economic solution to cover long
In principle, the request for signature bridges in specific locations is a positive trend, because it
demonstrates that bridges have moved into the public consciousness as structures with the potential
to shape, influence or even improve/enrich our infrastructure. In any case bridges are part of the
building culture converting infrastructure into civilisation. Engineers have always strived for
progress and have always used the given context to derive new designs. We engineers should use
this trend to show that bridges as all engineering structures play an important role in the building
culture and to prove that good design can generally be achieved with little extra cost. However, this
signature trend may also confront bridge designers with a conflict because more and more clients
are not satisfied anymore with the classic approach. Form follows function is often reversed in
architecture these days.
Treating all bridge types in this context is not possible and, therefore, the cable-stayed bridge with
its potential for indigenous construction and signature properties is taken here as an example. In the
following sections first the characteristics of cable-stayed bridges will be summarised. A description
of context as the basis for conceptual design follows. The next section elaborates on the issues of
conceptual design and signature structures by comparing seven cable-stayed bridges in Germany
and in India such as the classic Second Hooghly Bridge in Kolkata built in the 80s, and the
signature Yamuna Bridge in New Delhi that will be constructed in 2007. These examples show that
cable-stayed bridges and the large variety of possible structural solutions allow to positively avoid
the conflict described above.
2. Cable-Stayed Bridges
The discussion shall concentrate on modern cable-stayed bridges. This bridges type came up -
strongly influenced by the German engineer Fritz Leonhardt only after the second world war due
to the availability of high-strength low-fatigue steel. The main advantage of cable-stayed bridges is
their favourable load bearing behaviour: cables, masts and the deck form a large truss and thus carry
loads mainly by compression and tension. Today cable-stayed bridges are built all over the world
and with the Stonecutters Bridge in Hong Kong which is presently under construction soon the limit
of 1000m span will be reached.
The standard cable-stayed bridge consists of three spans, one main span of length L and two lateral
ones of about 0.4L. Visible design parameters are the way cables are placed along the deck
(centrally or laterally in the cross direction; fan, harp or semi-harp shapes in elevation), the shape of
the pylons or masts (H-, A-, Diamond) and (less visibly) the deck type (steel-only, concrete-only or
composite) [1]. It should be noted that this standard type is the right solution if the bridge needs to
cross one clearly defined obstacle such as a river. However, frequently there are additional
boundary conditions that lead to the design of quite different cable-stayed bridges. Examples will be
given in the next sections. This bridge type alone shows an immense variety of possible structural
types and it is this fact that offers the potential to create landmarks and signature bridges.
Cable-stayed bridges today are usually the most economical choice for spans between 100 to 200m
and say 1000m. When compared to suspension bridges, cable-stayed bridges offer the advantages
that they are self-anchored even during construction and, therefore, do not require the costly
counterweight of suspension bridges, that they react with only small deformations to live loads and
that they can be easily constructed by the balanced cantilevering method. With increasing span,
however, the axial forces in the deck also increase:
- for spans up to 300 or 350m the concrete decks are economical as they can utilize these axial
forces as a cost-free prestress. Beyond these span lengths the concrete decks become too
heavy and costly but a steel-only deck would also be too expensive. Concrete deck sections
can be box-sections or, preferably, T-beams.
- from 350m to about 600m or 700m the composite deck, consisting of longitudinal steel
girders and floor beams onto which precast or cast in-situ concrete is connected via shear
connectors, is advantageous. Its concrete slab, besides providing a robust roadway, receives
a cost-free prestress by the horizontal components of the cable forces and is concurrently
stiffened by and works together with the steel girders to resist bending. A further advantage
of the composite deck over a pure concrete deck is its simple free cantilevering erection
procedure. For each of the incrementally built deck segments: first, the light steel grid
consisting of longitudinal girders and floor beams is suspended from the towers by the stay
cables; second, the heavy concrete slab is placed using the steel grid as permanent formwork.
- At spans beyond about 700m the composite deck becomes too heavy and the steel girder
with an orthotropic deck remains the only economical choice. Typical steel-only deck
sections are steel grids or steel box with orthotropic decks: they are very light and are
therefore suitable to very long spans but have problems with regards to durability and
fatigue. Also, they are susceptible to vibrations due to low damping, and they are more
expensive. This solution is only then recommended when all other options are exhausted.
The quality of the orthotropic plate requires very precise construction. Inner corrosion is
also a problem: Airtight? Aerated? Mechanical drying? The durability of the surfacing is
also a problem.
Therefore, in general, composite decks are a very advantageous solution. Depending on the
situation, the welded, bolted or even riveted steel grids can be brought to the site in segments on
barges or trucks and be assembled from cranes from the bridge pylons in free cantilevering. Block
connectors are suitable shear connectors and are more effective than shear studs. The concrete deck
can be assembled using prefabricated slab elements and only joints must be concreted in-situ. In
regards to corrosion, the steel girders are easy to inspect and maintain. Because the girders are open
and aerated, they tend not to rust and there is no interior corrosion.
3. Conceptual Design and Context

It is the existing boundary conditions that directly influence all infrastructure projects including
bridges. These conditions lead to unique designs, to bridges that fit only at their genuine location at
one time. These conditions may be simultaneously topographical, financial, historical or social. It
may be the landscape that surrounds the future bridge or the "chemistry" of the design team. It is the
local context that defines our designs but it is difficult to exactly define it as its nature is manifold:
- topographical physical (terrain, type of obstacle, soil conditions, accessibility, climate,
- technical constructive (available building material, available technology, quality of labour,
organisation of the building industry). This can be called the indigenous context.
- political cultural (aesthetic demands, time and budget).
Always, it is the conscious and constructive debate on these conditions in combination with
engineering principles. These conditions influence and sometime contradict each other. The design
of a bridge is, therefore, often a compromise of conflicting boundary conditions. However, the more
complex and the more contradicting the conditions are the greater is the chance to achieve an
innovative or even surprising design. Cable-stayed as well as many other cable-supported bridges,
please because of their light-weight appearance and often impress simply because of their sheer size:
the potential for naturally achieving a signature structure is high.
The misunderstanding, however, is that icons, landmarks and signature bridges cannot be ordered.
Great inventions on command are hardly possible. The high expectations thus placed on the
designer may lead to over-reactions. Engineering values such as economy and robustness are
thrown over board for the sake of not-yet-seen cockalorum structures. Still, we should use this trend
to show that bridges as all engineering structures play an important role in the building culture, to
prove that good design can generally be achieved with little extra cost and that deriving the concept
from the given boundary conditions is perhaps the most promising design approach.
Even though the bridges described in the next section all come from the authors office (except the
Second Vivekananda Bridge) the different boundary conditions that have governed their design
have led to different designs to different structures. These seven examples illustrate the ample range
of choices that exists only in the field of cable-stayed bridge design.
4. Seven Cable-Stayed Bridges
For the Second Hooghly Bridge with a main span of 457m the client requested the bridge to be built
with local labour, local skills and local materials, i.e. indigenous construction [2], [3]. Since
weldable steel and HSFG bolts were not available at that time, only a riveted structure was possible
and an orthotropic steel deck, the international standard at the time, was not possible. Thus, the
Second Hooghly Bridge was not only record span at the time it also became the first cable-stayed
bridge with a composite deck. A steel grid acting compositely with a concrete deck slab on top.
Another special feature of this bridge is the parallel wire cables made in India, that connect to
passive anchorages at the deck and that can be retensioned in the pylon head.

Figure 1: Second Hooghly Brcke, Kolkata, India

The Ting Kau Bridge in Hong Kong is one the few multispan cable-stayed bridges built so far [4].
An under-water hill offered the opportunity to built central mast which led to economical deck
spans dimensions and a total cable-supported deck length of 1177m. The design was further
governed by the typhoon wind loads in Hong Kong. Aerodynamic stability of the deck for wind
speeds of up to 95m/s had to be achieved. A slender deck of only 1.75m height supported by 4 cable
planes reflects this. The high wind loads also led to slender masts shaped for minimum wind
resistance that are stabilised in the transverse direction by cables just like the masts of a sail boat.

Figure 2: Ting Kau Bridge, HongKong

The Argen Bridge in Southern Germany had to built over difficult terrain as no piers could be
placed in the slowly sliding lateral slope of the shallow valley it crosses [5]. For its free span of
260m a combination of cables above and under the deck were chosen. With this combination the
pylon could be adjusted well to the adjacent topography. Its height could be reduced to half that of a
conventional cable-stayed bridge while maintaining equal cable forces and quantities.

Figure 3: Argenbrcke, Germany

The access structures for the Expo 2000 in Hannover, Germany can be interpreted as cranked cable-
stayed bridges. The engineer integrated the architects idea of lighting posts into the bridge structure.
The idea of the architect (Volkwin Marg) of staging the bridges with welcoming espaliers (Fig. 4
bottom right) was an initial formal desire that did not correspond to the engineers conception of
bridges. The break-through came with the transformation of the light-posts envisaged by the
architect into a consistent structural principle, a version of a cranked harp-shaped cable-stayed
bridge (Fig. 4 top left) that requires exactly these vertical espaliers at close intervals by ways of
struts [6].
The primary structure consists of vertical tubular struts and diagonals as well as horizontal ties.
They form square modules with side lengths of 7.5 meters that can be added lengthways or
crosswise at will, and the pathway slabs can then be inserted. Concrete slabs were used for the
permanent sections and wooden slabs for the temporary sections.

Figure 4: Expo Bridges, Hannover, Germany

The Nessebrcke in Leer, Germany is cranked in plan; again a decision conditioned by the
approaches. Here the angle has become the leitmotif that consistently reappears in many angled
components of the structure, thus leading to a uniform appearance [7].
In plan the two bridge parts follow the directions of the adjacent roads leading to it resulting in a
cranked plan layout with a change in direction at the movable central part of the span. This not
only allows for interesting views when crossing the bridge. It also fits the concept of the cable-
stayed bridge which works as two fully loadable individual cantilevers (trusses) when the bridge is
open and which converts to a continuous girder of additional transverse stiffness when the bridge is
closed. Inclining the masts towards the water minimises their height and moves the mast heads
away from adjacent buildings avoiding visual conflicts. Usually, single masts lead to transversally
inclined cables which reduce headroom for the user. Here, the introduction of spreader beams
which bend the cables eliminates this clearance problem and creates an interesting space above the
From the centre of the bridge, where the movable steel-only deck is 4m wide, deck width increases
to 5m along the fixed part of the main span (composite section with a 20cm concrete slab and total
height of 60cm) and to even 6m at the massive concrete abutments, that support the inclined mast.

Figure 5: Leer Footbridge, Germany

The Second Vivekananda Bridge is presently under construction in Kolkata. The designers, IBT
from San Diego, USA, have consciously adjusted this extra-dosed bridge to the spans and
dimensions of the adjacent first Vivekananda Bridge.
This first Bridge was built in the first half of the 20th Century and consists of seven arch-shaped
steel trusses of 110m span each. The seven spans of the new bridge are, therefore, of equal size. The
material is different, parallel strand cables support concrete box girders made of match-cast
segments. The extra-dosed bridge type is widely used in Japan and is characterised by very shallow
cables. This leads to masts of reduced height, which in this case allows an overall bridge height that
does not obstruct the view to the Dakshineshwar temple which is also in its vicinity.

Figure 6: Second Vivekananda in Kolkata, India (Independent Consultants: Schlaich Bergermann

und Partner).
DTTDC, the client of the Yamuna Bridge at Wazirabad in New Delhi explicitly asked for the design
of a signature bridge. Several design sessions of the design team and intensive discussions with the
client led to a design with a dynamically shaped pylon to symbolise modern India. At the same time
structural sanity is fully maintained. The weight of the backwardly inclined pylon compensates part
of the dead weight of the deck. The pylon head is shaped so that the forces of the cables that enter
in two planes from the front and leave in one backstay plane are optimally connected. Its size is
chosen so that interior elevators can be accommodated that allow for access to an inspection and
viewing platform at the top of the pylon. The top part of the pylon has glass cladding that will be
illuminated at night. This will create a beacon that will be visible from quite a distance.
The main span of the bridge is 251m. The composite deck carries 8 lanes (4 in each direction). It is
about 36m wide a is supported by lateral cables spaced at 13.5m intervals. The height of the steel
tower is a approximately 150m.

Figure 7: Yamuna Bridge in New Delhi, India

5. Summary
Bridges are large infrastructure projects that shape our environment and can positively contribute to
building culture. It is the responsibility of us bridge designers to make this happen, to achieve a
double purpose: function and local rooting through indigenous construction. Cable-stayed bridges
are not only ideal for a large span range but also offer a large variety of possible designs emerging
from local boundary conditions. These light-weight bridges have entered into the public
consciousness and even though the request for signature bridges bears the risk of over-designing a
structure we should use this trend to show that with little extra money bridges can positively
contribute to civilisation.

[1] Walther, R. at. al.: "Cable Stayed Bridges", ASCE, 2003.
[2] Schlaich, J.; Bergermann R.: "Die Zweite Hooghly-Brcke in Kalkutta", Der Bauingenieur,
Januar 1996 (in German).
[3] Schlaich, M.: Indigenous Bridges, Proceedings IABSE Conference in New Delhi, India,
[4] Bergermann, R.; Schlaich, M.: The Ting Kau Bridge in Hong Kong, Proceedings IABSE
Symposium in Kobe, Japan, 1998.
[5] Holgate, A.: "The Art of Structural Engineering", Edition Axel Menges, 1997.
[6] Bgle, A.; Schmal, P.; Flagge, I. (editors.): leicht weit Light Structures, Jrg Schlaich,
Rudolf Bergermann, Prestel Verlag, Mnchen 2003.
[7] Schlaich, M. et al.: fib, guide to good practice, bulletin 32, "guidelines for the design of
footbridges", 2005.

This paper is an extended version of article presented at the cenem conference at the Bengal
University of Science and Technology in Kolkata, India in January 2007.