Architecture

Renzo Piano's solar-powered bridge opens to traffic in Italy

Renzo Piano's solar-powered br...
The Genova San Giorgio Bridge, shown illuminated with the colors of the Italian flag on its completion
The Genova San Giorgio Bridge, shown illuminated with the colors of the Italian flag on its completion
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The Genova San Giorgio Bridge comprises a steel deck that was fabricated in large pieces then brought to the site and welded together
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The Genova San Giorgio Bridge comprises a steel deck that was fabricated in large pieces then brought to the site and welded together
The Genova San Giorgio Bridge involved over 1,000 people from 40 trades working non-stop in parallel 24 hours a day
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The Genova San Giorgio Bridge involved over 1,000 people from 40 trades working non-stop in parallel around the clock
The Genova San Giorgio Bridge is supported by 18 reinforced concrete piles
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The Genova San Giorgio Bridge is supported by 18 reinforced concrete piles
The Genova San Giorgio Bridge took 15 months to complete
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The Genova San Giorgio Bridge took 15 months to complete
The Genova San Giorgio Bridge's overall design is likened to a ship moored in the Genoese valley by Renzo Piano
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The Genova San Giorgio Bridge's overall design is likened to a ship moored in the Genoese valley by Renzo Piano
The Genova San Giorgio Bridge's steel deck is curved
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The Genova San Giorgio Bridge's steel deck is curved
"From a structural and seismic point of view, the deck is 'isolated' from the piers through the use of support devices that allow the bridge to 'breathe' without there being any influence on its stability and strength," explains Renzo Piano Building Workshop
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"From a structural and seismic point of view, the deck is 'isolated' from the piers through the use of support devices that allow the bridge to 'breathe' without there being any influence on its stability and strength," explains Renzo Piano Building Workshop
The Genova San Giorgio Bridge spans the Polcevera river in Genoa
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The Genova San Giorgio Bridge spans the Polcevera river in Genoa
The Genova San Giorgio Bridge, shown at night. The bridge's lighting and other systems are fully powered from integrated solar panels
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The Genova San Giorgio Bridge, shown at night. The bridge's lighting and other systems are fully powered from integrated solar panels
The Genova San Giorgio Bridge, shown illuminated with the colors of the Italian flag on its completion
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The Genova San Giorgio Bridge, shown illuminated with the colors of the Italian flag on its completion
View gallery - 10 images

In August 2018, a section of Genoa's Morandi Bridge collapsed during heavy rain, killing 43 people. Following the disaster, high-profile Italian starchitect Renzo Piano's firm was chosen to design its replacement and, after 15 months of almost non-stop work, the new bridge is now complete and in use.

Though first and foremost a tragedy, the Morandi Bridge's collapse also represented the loss of a much-needed transport link in the area. With this in mind, its replacement was completed as quickly as possible. The project, now named the Genova San Giorgio Bridge, involved over 1,000 people from 40 trades working non-stop in shifts around the clock, except for Christmas Day and a few other days when severe weather made work impossible.

The bridge comprises a curved steel deck that was fabricated in large sections then transported to the site and welded together. It extends a total length of 1,067 m (3,500 ft) and is supported by 18 reinforced concrete piles. A 2.5-m (8.2-ft)-tall glass barrier protects against falls and reduces the wind experienced on the bridge. Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW) likens its overall design to the hull of a ship.

"From an architectural point of view, the form described by the deck, which recalls the hull of a ship, is of great importance," explains RPBW. "The gradual reduction of the section towards the ends of the bridge attenuates the visual impact of the new infrastructure. In addition, the use of a light color for the coating of the steel elements makes the bridge bright, harmonizing its presence in the landscape."

The Genova San Giorgio Bridge involved over 1,000 people from 40 trades working non-stop in parallel 24 hours a day
The Genova San Giorgio Bridge involved over 1,000 people from 40 trades working non-stop in parallel around the clock

The bridge has integrated solar panels running along the deck's edge which produce enough energy to run its lighting and other systems, night and day.

Significant attention has been paid to the bridge's safety and maintenance too. Specialist dampers protect against seismic activity and robots are used to clean the glass barrier and solar panels. Robots also monitor the bridge's structure and the data collected is added to data from a complex system of sensors that include accelerometers, velocimeters, inclinometers and detectors for joint expansion and other potential issues. Everything from the thickness of the paint to the strength of the welds holding the deck together will be closely monitored, ensuring that the bridge continues to operate safely for many years into the future.

Sources: Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Webuild, Fincantieri

View gallery - 10 images
1 comment
Karmudjun
Awesome! Nice article Adam. The robotic maintenance (or at least the cleaning robots) is a neat development. Thankfully they have added dampers and reduced the crosswind risks. I'm guessing the pictures do not do the construction project justice - I know the pictures of the collapse really gave a sense of the magnitude of the tragedy, and I guess the ribbed superstructure supporting the roadway is the prime reference to a "ships hull". That is a beautiful area!