5/22/2012

The Carpinteira Bridge


The core of the city of Covilha, in the interior of Portugal, occupies a promontory in the southern foothills of the Serra da Estrela, visually dominating a vast and fertile landscape of relative flatness the Cova da Beira region– which extends from the Estrela to the Gardunha and Malcata mountain ranges.  The particular topography of the territory in which the city is inscribed not only determined the form and strategies of its urban design, but too has provided the technical and economic means for its development.

The design and construction (2003-2009) by Joao Luis Carrilho da Graca, with Afaconsult, of a cycling and pedestrian bridge over the Carpinteira valley as part of a plan to "flatten" the experience of movement through the city and between its center and the outlying areas, draws a line on this landscape that determines and provides a new possibility of movement across the valley.  Above the steep granite slopes of the water course, where the hollow facades of the woolen mills and the granite walls that supported the Ramolas de Sol (structures for drying of the wool) remain, the bridge is drawn, curve and counter-curve, anchored at the level determined by the platform of the Penedos Altos municipal swimming pool on one side and, 220 meters farther, the same level in the opposite hillside, 52 meters above the watercourse.



The non-perpendicularity between the imaginary line connecting the points of mooring and the axis of the valley provided the opportunity for the layout of the bridge deck to install, rather than a rupture, a slip of the Euclidean paradigm.  A curved line in three sections, the middle section normal to the slopes and  perpendicular to the axis of the valley, and inflecting at each end drawing a serpentine figure connected at both ends at the pre-determined landing points.



Cladded in white, and black in the soffits, the Carpinteira bridge draws a portico, almost abstract over the river and the landscape, installing a new framework of visual and physical relations, thus providing a re-mapping the territory.  The bridge not only encourages us to cross it by necessity, but also to physically wander, because it is able to make coexist, in itself and the landscape it reveals.