3D-Printed Crossings Designed to Sit Under Bridges


In a new virtual exhibit created by students from the Rhode Island School of Design, pedestrian and cyclist access on the Newport Pell Bridge has been completely reimagined.

The exhibit, Crossing the Pell, was constructed using RISD’s Adaptive Reuse program—a one-year master's degree program for architects that focuses on the reuse of structures.

Access Lane Design

Unlike other replacement, rehabilitation or new construction bridge projects now accommodating for pedestrians and cyclists in the form of specified lanes, students have looked to how these types of access lanes could be installed beneath these massive structures.

“It’s not super easy to get to Newport unless you have a car,” says Liliane Wong, a professor of interior architecture at Rhode Island School of Design who led a class in adaptive reuse that considered how it might be possible to redesign the bridge.

According to The Newport Daily News, eight graduate students—Shuyi Guan, Nupoor Maduskar, Saira Margarita Paz Nepomuceno, SeungHwan Oh, Demi Okunfulure, Sofia Paez and Mohan Wang—worked on the project.

However, adding another deck onto an aging piece of infrastructure isn’t easy, and in most cases, can’t support the additional weight. To mitigate these potential issues, students from Wong’s class developed the idea of 3D printing these new lanes from carbon fiber wrapped with a composite membrane, a material that’s both lightweight and strong.

“These are large visions, but they aren't based on the air,” Wong continued. “We talked to structural engineers, wind experts, biking experts and so on, just to get a sense of the perimeter. And so these are four very large visions, and you'll see that some of them even go further.”

According to the students, the deck would attach to the bridge’s existing columns. In addition, since the Newport Pell Bridge had been their structure focus, the students also considered the comfortability of those crossing the 2.1-mile-long structure. As a result, the students also included sheltered spaces for restaurants, small shops, dog parks and other activities in their designs.

“We wanted to make a reason to go there, not just a one-way street,” said Sofia Paez, who collaborated on the design with fellow master’s student Shuyi Guan.

In late May, the students presented their ideas to the team of U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, using cardboard virtual reality viewers and a tour of the site created with Pano software. According to reports, Whitehouse was in awe of the project.

“They reimagined what the Pell Bridge could be. I hope Rhode Islanders will be inspired by these designs as we look to include more innovative elements in future infrastructure projects,” he said.

“Once you have those images in your mind, it's hard to unsee them. And I think from now on, the prospect for a bike and pedestrian pathway to be something exciting is made much more real by their work.”

While there is currently no federal source of funding for such a project, Whitehouse noted that work was being done to obtain funding from the bipartisan infrastructure bill.


Tagged categories: 3D printing; 3D Printing; Bridges; Bridges; Colleges and Universities; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Transportation

Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.