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Hillhouse Avenue bridges win AIA Connecticut Award

Hillhouse Avenue bridges win AIA Connecticut Award

Hillhouse Avenue bridges win AIA Connecticut Award

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (Dec. 03, 2012) — A pair of pedestrian bridges by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects has won an award from AIA Connecticut.

The firm received a Merit Award in the 2012 Design Awards, which recognize outstanding work by Connecticut architects and design excellence in Connecticut architectural projects. The Hillhouse Avenue bridges, a collaboration with structural engineer Guy Nordenson and Associates, won in the “Architecture: the Encompassing Art” category. This special award recognizes the multitude of design aspects that underpin an overall project design.

In its comments, the awards jury noted: “With a simple idea, the bridges combine architectural structure and art to create something beautiful and elegant, especially in the way steel is handled. The project is ‘encompassing’ because it raises structure to art.”

The bridges are a reinterpretation of a 19th century bridge form using present-day design, fabrication, and structural technologies. Spanning 60 feet over the Farmington Canal Greenway in a noted New Haven historic district, the pedestrian bridges preserve unobstructed views of the tree-lined street that, according to legend, both Charles Dickens and Mark Twain called the most beautiful in America.

With their diamond-shaped perforations, the new bridges recall a lattice truss, a bridge type once widely used throughout New England. Patented in 1820 by New Haven architect Ithiel Town, the lattice truss uses a diagonal arrangement of small boards, rather than large beams. Unlike their 19th century predecessors, the new bridges are primarily constructed of steel.  The primary structure and handrails (the main load-carrying members) are two 46-inch deep steel-plate girders with quarter-inch corrugated webs. The cutouts lighten the structure and allow sunlight to reach the walking and cycling trail below. The wave patterns vary in amplitude across the bridge according to structural demands. The sections with the greatest amplitudes are located at the bridge ends and at midspan, allowing for thinner web plates. The bridge decks are Greenheart, a sustainably harvested tropical hardwood.

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