Building [Equilibrium] Bridge


Javier Bidot-Betancourt
Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico


Jose Lorenzo-Torres
Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico


This dynamic design is dramatic with powerful imagery. There is a clear fascination with form and modeling, and a gift in providing something interesting to look at. The project is impressive for its attention to the bridge deck, overlooked by most competition submissions, yet a highly important part of bridge designs. There is an understanding of how steel would actually be used, with clear structural components and the steel detailing which is credible and believable. The project is more focused on the building, a tower and suspension cable scheme, rather than the bridge span. 


In San Juan' s pedestrian-oriented district of Condado, Jaime Benitez Park faces a clear spatial disconnection from the main urban plot that segregates this green public space from potential users. With a single access from a secondary residential street, distant from the main artery -Ashford Avenue- the park is dismissed by a number of residents and visitors that favor, instead, many of the other beachfront public spaces. With tourism being a crucial part of the vibrant urban activity, most of the tourists that visit the district find themselves unaware of the park' s existence. Considering the privileged natural context of the site and the series of leisurely activities on offer, this can easily represent a wasted local attraction. On the other hand, lack of commercial spaces means that the activity that does occur falls on the ephemeral; again, drained by the upper district's vast offer. During the night, all of these conditions sum up to a vacant site missing the 24/7 activeness present on Ashford Avenue and its immediate context. This abandonment leaves the site open to illicit activities, an amendable risk to the residential area around the park…

Building [Equilibrium] Bridge is an act of re-interpretation; emulating urban infrastructure, the proposal articulates basic architectural elements to establish alternate relations of mutual dependency between spatially independent systems. While the bridge is envisioned as a reintroduction of the park into the city, the latter counteracts by inserting in the site a section of urban fragment: the pavilion program. This relation of reciprocity is executed by an interpretation of the cantilevered cable-stayed bridge system, where the pavilion not only represents the conceptual support for crossing, but also its inherent structural sustentation. The balance created becomes evident, not only in structure and form, but in the new flow of events allowed by the proposed bridge. This connection will further redistribute the social milieu towards these “under-densified” and unexposed urban spaces, all while enhancing the public space's presence in the city with this new visual and social landmark.

The crossing takes place over a 400’ stretch of water at the northeastern periphery of Condado Lagoon, between Joffre Street and Jaime Benitez Park; the most linear link between the main activity “spine” in Ashford Avenue and the site. The Lagoon, being part of the San Juan Bay Estuary System, presents itself as an ecologically sensitive area. For that reason, the structure aims to maintain a single span over the body of water, with foundations only on previously impacted areas. Furthermore, the bridge will enclose an area to the east for restoration of the local flora: the red mangrove –rhizophora mangle-, allowing, in the crossing, an opportunity for communal education and public participation.

The pavilion, on the other hand, responds to the site’s dynamically intangible context- the sociocultural scene. The cosmopolitan ambience fed by residents of all ages, tourists and daily visitors, makes Condado a vibrant example of social plurality and constant activity in the San Juan area. Reacting to this condition, the pavilion adheres to no particular program and defines itself by the flexibility of adaptation. With a 2,700 sq ft free plan in the main pavilion area, the building can become a destination for endless encounters and cultural activities. It can be an interpretive center, a small museum, a gallery, or the venue of many private and public events. Inside, the spatial experience is defined by the exposed structural system that makes the crossing possible, revealing the balance of forces. Above all, the social capsule created inside this system is conceived as a space of urban condensation counteracting the vastness below of a park that incites dispersion; circulation and rest, open space and containment; in a model of equilibrium.