Symbolic beauty: Winter games bridge takes Olympic rings to new heights

Story highlights

  • A new concept bridge has been designed to connect Beijing to the 2022 Winter Olympic Games venues
  • Shaped like a double helix, the 'San Shan' bridge's stunning arches were inspired by the Olympic rings

(CNN)As light and lithe as an Olympic athlete, a new concept bridge that reflects the famous Olympic rings has been designed to connect Beijing to the 2022 Winter Games venues.

The 'San Shan Bridge' -- designed by Penda architects in conjunction with engineering firm Arup -- spans the Gui River to the north of Beijing and connects China's capital with the Zhangjiakou district, where most major outdoor Winter Olympics sports will be held.
    Constructed from six white interlocking rings that connect at their highest and lowest points, the bridge takes its inspiration from the Olympic symbol, science and the mountainous terrain of its surrounds -- 'San Shan' translates to three mountains in English.
    The San Shan bridge design takes its inspiration from the Olympic rings and a double helix
    "There was a structural inspiration, which lies in the double helix, as well as the engineering of a bicycle wheel. There was also a formal inspiration in the arches, which came from the site itself, because it's a very mountainous hillside between Zhangjiakou and Beijing," explains Penda architect Chris Precht, who designed the bridge in conjunction with his co-founding partner, Dayong Sun.
    "And of course, the bridge is designed for the Olympic games and features the rings as a unifying symbol."

    Strength in unity

    Designed to look as light as it is innovative, the 452 meter bridge's helix structure allows it to be slender but structurally strong, with the deck of the bridge suspended from six arches by high-strength steel cables.
    Steel cables connect the deck to the arches of the bridge in a cross-weaving pattern
    "It's a very slim structure, a very transparent structure, so from a formal aspect it connects very well to the background but it also stands out in order to create an icon for the Olympic games," says Precht.
    While this lightness of touch gives the bridge sound environmental credentials -- the engineers estimate it will use around five times less steel than a conventional box girder bridge -- it also adds to its unique play on perspective.
    "From the top it looks like a double helix, but when you see it from the side it looks like mountains, and when you see it from the front it creates a circle," says Precht.
    "So when you enter the bridge it is a very inviting gesture, driving through the structure, that's reminiscent of an entrance gate to a Chinese garden."
    The bridge plays with perspective, taking different forms depending on where it's viewed from
    As a structure is also takes individual elements -- the cross-connected arches, the steel cables and the deck -- and combines them in an unconventional way so that they work together to support each other, in a further reflection of the Olympic team spirit.
    Although not yet approved for construction, Penda designed the bridge as part of a submission for a competition to build the Beijing Horticultural Expo 2019 pavilion, which is being held next to a spot where the government have indicated they need to build a bridge for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
    The team won the competition to build the pavilion and hope to have their own Olympic dreams fulfilled in the near future.