Event: Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge photoshoot
Location: Hong Kong
Date: 5 October 2016
As far as the eye can see, giant concrete struts rise from the ground and the sea, like alien beings wading ashore. This is the birth of a link road to join up Hong Kong and Macau and it’s an engineering feat quite unlike anything else. The HK$13billion project incorporates bridges, tunnels and two artificial islands; it is the largest design and build contract awarded in China.
Engineering consultant Mott MacDonald was the lead designer for the 9.4km section of viaduct at the Hong Kong end of the project. This portion of the bridge runs alongside the airport complex, before meeting the potion being constructed concurrently at sea. Mott MacDonald is a global powerhouse when it comes to these sorts of innovative super-programmes and arranged access for Spacesuit Media to shoot the bridge while still under construction. It was an oppressive day, grey overhead with storms rolling in from the sea. While we were there, the skies cracked under the weight of water and drops the size of golf balls assaulted the ground for 10 minutes while we sheltered in an adjacent cabin.
The structure is impressive enough when standing in its shadow, but the scale is simply staggering once you’ve climbed the temporary staircase tower to stand atop the vast concrete deck. There, you can see along the rising viaduct, to where a crane marks the end of the deck. The piers continue out across the bay, each standing solitary, swarmed with activity by workers who are confined to the workplace with no access away until a boat comes out to pick them up.
The bridge will carry three-lane highways in both directions, and you can clearly see the separation between the dual decks, prior to being joined. Also easily comprehensible is the camber of the decks as the piers curve away in the distance. It looks like a real life Hot Wheels track is being built.
The method which which the precast concrete elements that form the bridge deck are held together has to be seen to be believed. We were taken inside the bridge, into its bowels, through a hatch in the completed concrete deck and down a ladder. Inside, the atmosphere is stifling, like walking into a sauna. It is also remarkably dark, despite the opening we’ve climbed through. There’s enough room to stand upright. A narrow corridor ahead leads into the next compartment; three black cables, each the thickness of your leg, run on either side of us. They angle up from the floor to head height, through the bulkhead in individual sleeves, and then down on the other side to floor level again. These giant steel “elastic bands” act in a similar manner to a suspension bridge: the cables run through the deck to the next pier, ratcheting the sections together while allowing some flex in case of extreme weather conditions.
Despite the terrible weather, the sunset was clear and Shiv Gohil didn’t waste a second. Look out for our images appearing in Mott MacDonald’s publications and marketing materials, as well as at the company’s website and social media channels.
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