Lock Island Bridges by UNStudio

A bridge design and structural system inspired by arabic patterns


All images and information courtesy of UNStudio; see end of the article for detailed credits

UNStudio are the designers behind this group of bridges designed for a new community along the Arabian Canal.

Lock Island Bridges, Dubai, UAE, 2008

The lock island bridges are part of a series of bridges crossing the Arabian Canal within the master plan for area 01. All bridges differ in span, width, use and landing conditions, altogether creating a variety of bridges enriching the experience of the Arabian Canal from the water and the edges. For each bridge a specific solution translates the starting criteria into unique spatial experiences. UNStudio’s design addresses the varying requirements while maintaining an integer design idea that describes these bridges as part of a larger landscape and, within this topology, as members of the same species. Although the lock island bridges are the smallest within the master plan for area 01 in terms of span and width, they are regarded as initiators for the overall development.


Along the water edges the embankments between the two lock island bridges are urban spaces with high recreational potential. The new bridges become part of and frame the continuous urban space of the tidal Water features and the canal Front park. The bridges are seen as public moments in themselves, rather than merely providing an infrastructural connection between two water edges. The bridges and the public landscape provide spaces for residents sheltering from the sun and become part of the community park.

The two bridges serve as a connection for cars, bicycles and pedestrians. Traffic flows are separated into the functional traffic of vehicles and fast bicycles on the upper bridge deck and the pedestrians and recreational bicycles on the lower bridge deck, which is then shaded by the upper deck. The lower deck is closer to the water line where evaporative cooling takes place. The landings of the lower bridge deck merge with the pedestrian promenades in a slope, while the upper bridge deck merges with the adjacent streets. The functional and recreational traffic flows remain separated. The pedestrian walkways on the promenade are covered with shading trellis, which are integrated elements of the bridge, creating a unity and continuity of well tempered pedestrian paths around the tidal Water features.


The physical appearance of the design reflects different geometrical adaptations of classical arabic patterns. Referring to more than one thousand years of ornamentation history the reinterpretation of these patterns creates a tool for the design of several constructive elements: the designed trellis provide a subtle way of shading; on the lower part of the bridge the elements are deployed as a directional tool for way finding; in a three-dimensional system the elements are used as structural basis for the bridge. Applying an arabic pattern in this manner creates a spatial device for the bridge whilst also unifying the bridge with its surroundings.






The central public space is the physical focus point of the bridge. This central element of the Lock Island Bridge development resembles an oversized public eye. In its non-physical presence, this analogy and the visual relationship between the bridges becomes an urban installation which catches and channels various views. Like a reflector, the structure and cladding of the bridges become part of this visual instrument and these surfaces are therefore treated with high glossy metallic coating. This further centers the focus to the central “eye” and the framed views of the surroundings, reflecting water, sky and the embankment at both sides of the Arabian Canal. The “eye” is shifted in relation to the first bridge, thus slightly breaking the symmetry of the tidal water features, providing diagonal views and giving every bridge its own appearance in relation to the water edges.


Limitless LLC


Project Team
Ben van Berkel, Astrid Piber with René Wysk, Luis Etchegorry and Ger Gijzen, Cynthia Markhoff, Cristina Bolis, Marina Bozukova, Marcin Koltunski, Peter Moerland.

Structural Engineer:
Schlaich Bergermann und Partner – Structural Consulting Engineers.

Project Team:
Sven Plieninger, Philipp Wenger, Stefan Justiz.
Patrick Noome, UNStudio
Materialise, Leuven

Renders and Visualizations:
UNStudio and Rendertaxi, Aachen

Graphic Design:
Bloemendaal & Dekkers, Amsterdam

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