Location: Berlin
Date: 2014-2021
Client: Berliner Senat
Status: Construction
Size: 78m length
Credits: ACME (Sarah Blahut, Nicholas Channon, Cristian Gheorghe, Vera Landshuter, Friedrich Ludewig, Sarah Norman, Heidrun Schuhmann).
CONSULTANTS COMPETITION: AKT II, London (structural engineer), Höhler + Partner, Aachen (quantity surveyor), SEAM, London (lighting design), Relais Landschaftsarchitekten (landscape architect); CONSULTANTS EXECUTION: Schüßler Plan, Berlin (structural engineer), LICHTKUNSTLICHT, Berlin (lighting design), BÖGER+JÄCKLE Ingenieure (Construction supervision)
Berlin Europacity is a new mixed-use, sustainable urban quarter in the very heart of Berlin. Under construction since 2014, and due to complete in 2025, the development area sits north of Berlin Central Station, adjacent to the Charité University Hospital, the German Secret Service and the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, one of the largest and most significant public collections of contemporary art in the world.
 
The Golda-Meir-Steg, designed by ACME, is a new pedestrian and cycle bridge spanning the Berlin-Spandauer-Schifffahrtskanal. It creates an East-West link between two divided districts - the new Europacity and the Mitte district  -  the former East and West Berlin territories, formerly separated by the canal and the death strip of the Berlin Wall
 
A number of people tragically died in this zone of the Berlin wall, killed while trying to escape across the canal from East to West Berlin.
 
In a context where crossing over was fraught with danger and great difficulty in the past, we wanted to create a crossing as light and as simple as possible. A crossing that requires no great willpower or decision, a crossing that quietly invites pedestrians across. 
 
The bridge design responds to a number of challenges. No obstruction of the waterway was permitted and the required shipping clearance imposed severe access constraints. ACME in collaboration AKT II as structural engineers crafted a minimal, floating plank, sensitively integrated into the existing landscape of the riverside context with as little trace as possible. The structural concept is a super thin plate with just an open handrail above, acting as a very shallow-arched U-girder. All architectural components - the deck, balustrades, posts, and handrails - are jointly creating the bridge structure.
 
Berlin's bridges such as Schinkels Schloßbrücke traditionally played with ornamentation of the guardrails. We were keen to create a handrail that creates a contemporary response to this context while being true to the forces within the handrail that are structurally holding up the bridge.
 
The laser-cut perforated steel balustrade patterning algorithmically follows the required structural performance throughout the bridge’s length. The side panels are initially 90% solid at each abutment, to carry high shear stresses; towards the centre the panels opening up with greater perforation where the structural forces have moved into the deck and handrails.  At each abutment, the superstructure lands on elastomeric bearings and terminates on vertical ‘pendulum’ rods, which allows the bridge to dynamically lengthen under pedestrian loading and thermal expansion. Three tuned-mass dampers, within the central span’s apex, absorb any vibration and maintain the slender bridge’s stillness and stability.
 
The laser-cut pattern is generated using a historic circular railing pattern. By scaling and overlapping the circles, a course of different densities is created, which with its degree of perforation trace the course of the stress in the construction. This visualizes the static forces of the structure, and celebrates the crossing of the canal for locals who find themselves in the middle of the bridge in an increasingly delicate and open relationship to the landscape and water. From a distance, the superimposition of the fine pattern creates a moiré effect.
 
Linear low energy LED lighting is integrated in the handrail, transforming the bridge into an orange glowing beacon after dark.
 
The bridge was fabricated as a single entity in a Bavarian steel factory by the Danube. The seven segments, each weighing 30t, were assembled in the Deggendorf harbour, in southern Germany into one continuous 77m long deck. The completed structure was painted with seven layers of anti-corrosion paint and a final layer of anti-graffiti coating, before the 200t structure was loaded onto a canal barge. The barge travelled 1600km to Berlin via canals and 64 locks over 12 days in late 2020.  Upon arrival in Berlin, an 800t crawler crane hoisted the bridge from the barge, rotated it 90 degrees, and precisely placed it on the abutments.