If dance traced lines of a bridge?

Is a bridge necessarily a vehicle passing place ? This bridge project in China aims to prove the opposite. Inspired by the finesse and lightness of the dance, the bridge is intended to be a space of organized and fast mobility while allowing everyone to rest and meditate in complete tranquility.
Banner of the article presenting the bridge at night
Preview of the bridge project | Architects: AREP, Inui, Stéphane Curtelin

Taking cues from fields as far abreast as contemporary dance to dark-sky light plotting, our design for this river bridge finds its coherence in merging a performative approach to material use. The result can be easily named a hybrid structural design, with an efficient use of materials. Does this do justice to the innovation involved in this three-tiered structure, or the cadences of car traffic and pedestrian movement we created within the bridge itself? Only partially




To borrow from influential drawings of choreographic pathways of Lucinda Childs’ dances or Sol Lewit’s appropriation of them as projections and wall-drawings in their collaboration Dance of 1979, gave us the impetus to create a new interstial space within the bridge structure, a space of new pathways – both straight and variable with the signature half-curves of Childs’ mapped movements.


These early experiments for the stage by Childs, informed our design to create a stage for visitors using the bridge – a horizontal linear walking or biking path to the half-arch sitting areas overlooking the river. The possible criss-crossing of the walking paths and the undulating compound surfaces of the arches, allows for complex pathways – a three-dimensional choreographic score not seen in any other bridge design.

Sketch of inspiration binding dance and bridge shape
Sketch of inspiration between dance and architecture | Sketch by Tim Culbert, Design Director (TC)

Animation of dance movements, a major source of inspiration for the structure | Based on the choreographic score (excerpt) by Lucinda Childs, (extract) Dance # 1 (1979), graphite and felt pen on paper, Fonds Lucinda Childs - CND Mediatheque, 35.6x28cm, courtesy Lucinda Childs



The use of Child’s mapping diagrams, serial motifs, and their multiple combinations were a source in defining our design – placing movement and the human body foremost in our thoughts as we experimented with spanning forms for this bridge. The result is in essence a serial structure that is both structurally stable, yet formally enigmatic with its rising and falling double-curvature arches towards the water.

It is this very form that renders the bridge and arches stable, resistant to span large distances – by use of repetitive sinous curves – as well as visually rhythmic and spectacular with not one viewpoint the same: a choreographic movement in space.


The three-tiered structural design with an open network – or forest – of slender metal columns, allows us to create a new occupied area on top of the shell arches below the roadway – a social gathering space – not found in any other bridge. Open to views over the river to the East and West, it serves as a pedestrian walkway and bike-path, separated from the noise of the car traffic above.


Sun setting on the pedestrian relaxation area under the bridge
Rest area available for pedestrians under the bridge | Architects: AREP, Inui, Stéphane Curtelin

As each shell arch reaches down to the river they form a series of steps – like an amphitheater -  to view the landscaped site.  These same steps serve to bring the public down to the river’s edge at end of the last arch.


The areas on top of the undulating shell arches are free for people to walk, run or bike along the flat middle line of the sinuous arches – a choreographic space of multiple pathways.  Thus the Guishui bridge indeed forms the support of a three-dimensional dance a la Lucinda Childs.

Diagram showing the diffusion of light along the different angles of the bridge
Diffusion of lighting according to the different angles of the structure | Architects: AREP

At night the space is brightly lit, becoming a visual spectacle from a distance. With the underside of the shell arches lit from below, from the supporting piers, all artificial light is held “within” the structure and avoids stray light upwards to the sky – light pollution in other words – a key fault of bridge structures with over lighted structures above the roadway. From an environmental point of view, the bridge thus respects a “dark-sky” approach to night lighting without losing in iconic impact and night light effects or use.

Design Direction
Etienne Tricaud, co-founder of AREP Chief Architect
Thierry Chantriaux, Chief Executive Officer
Daniel Claris, International Director
Tim Culbert, Design Director
Andreas Alexopoulos, Architect, Structural Engineer

Project Team
Ebrahem Hassibi
Heloise Cai
Sergio Capasso

Engineers - Consulting
AREP + Map3
Emmanuel Livadiotti

AREP China
Luc Néouze, Director of the Beijing Agency
Xingxing Jiang, Director of Business Development


Inui, Stéphane Curtelin
Emannuel Livadiotti
Yassin Bruneau, Fablab manager, ENSAPVS