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The result of a multidisciplinary collaboration between architects and engineers, FunambOule is a self-supporting footbridge spanning a pedestrian portion of Saint-Catherine Street, in Montreal, Quebec. Designed by Architecturama and Latéral, the footbridge allows visitors a new vantage point where the famous multicolored suspended balls are at eye level. FunambOule was conceived as a self-standing span that can be disassembled and reassembled at a new location each year.

Reminiscent of tightrope walkers, visitors float six meters above Saint-Catherine Street, blending with the multicolored plastic balls. Walking on the open grating is akin to birds perching on a wire.

Architecturama and Latéral worked jointly to define and optimize the shape and architectural expression of the project, as well as the overall constructability. Curved and lightweight steel trusses are suspended from two independent towers. The curvature of the trusses is the same as that of the suspended balls. The steel members used were optimized for transport and easy manipulation.

Curved and lightweight steel trusses are suspended from two independent towers. A repetition of triangular shapes form the basis for the structural and architectural expression of the footbridge. Image: Latéral/Architecturama

Several major constraints needed to be considered during design:

  • The entire structure needed to be self-supporting. Fixing into the road or sidewalk was not permitted. Counterweights had to be used to resist wind and earthquake conditions.
  • The shape of the bridge deck needed to follow the catenary shape of the suspended balls. Enough clearance for a fire truck was also required, as well as clear height and dimensional requirements for the stairs and landings.
  • FunambOule needed to be assembled and disassembled easily. The structure is stored during the winter. The footbridge was therefore designed as individual pieces with specific dimensional and weight restrictions.
  • Architectural expression: The goal was to create an interesting, impressive, and playful installation that fits in well with the multicolored balls.

A repetition of triangular shapes form the basis for the structural and architectural expression of the footbridge. Triangulation is a simple and minimalist articulation while structurally effective. The diagonals and horizontals for the guard and handrail were designed as elegant thin tubular steel elements. For structural minimalism, the handrail acts as a horizontal truss. The steel elements that make-up the footbridge all act together as a coherent whole, combining architectural expression, structural efficiency, and constructability.

FunambOule is a finalist for the 2017 Awards for Excellence of the Canadian Institute for Steel Construction.


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