May 17, 2006
by Canadian Architect
The Harmonic Chinook Bridge was announced as the winner of the SSEF student design competition. The winning team is comprised of students from the University of Calgary Master of Architecture program, and includes Paul Schaefer, Lee Blanchard and Andrew Martin. Faculty advisor was Gary Mundy, and Loraine Fowlow was the course director.
Based on the air channeling within a harmonica, the bridge is designed to materialize the energy of the Chinook wind into an audible tone. Sited on a north-south axis, the bridge harnesses the westerly Chinook winds while connecting two sides of a public trail system. Located in Nose Hill Park, one of the highest points in Calgary, with a spectacular view of the Rocky Mountains to the west, this location is a transitional zone from which the ecosystem of the Rocky Mountains and foothills collide with the prairie landscape.
The geography here is one of surprise and continual change, especially during the winter. Often it is at moments in the middle of winter that the precious Chinook winds arrive, bringing with it the warm coastal air, melting the snow and bringing people once again outdoors to park spaces. These winds are caused by this transitional geography and in themselves bring change.
Using two airfoils and inverting the top section, the fast-moving Chinook wind is channelled between the upper and lower sections of the bridge structure. The stressed steel skin of the upper section pinches the air stream, where a thin sheet steel section resonates, creating an audible tone.
In society today, people are in constant transition. There is rarely a moment to stop and consider our connection and understanding with nature. Design has an opportunity to reveal phenomena of the nature of the everyday, strengthening our connection with our surroundings.