Submitted by WA Contents

Carlo Ratti Associati and Michel Virlogeux propose design for the collapsed Baltimore bridge

United States Architecture News - May 15, 2024 - 09:30   1378 views

Carlo Ratti Associati and Michel Virlogeux propose design for the collapsed Baltimore bridge

Italian architecture practice Carlo Ratti Associati and structural engineer Michel Virlogeux have proposed a new design for the collapsed Baltimore bridge, which is known as the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge was collapsed in March 2024, after a container ship crashed into one of its piers, experiencing a power outage.

CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati, together with structural engineer Michel Virlogeux and international construction group Webuild, have proposed a new design for the replacement of the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

The design, based on a cable-stayed approach, aims to redefine the entrance to the historic Baltimore Harbor and restore a lasting symbol of the city. It is also expected to improve several functional characteristics of the old bridge, including features that will enhance safety and long-term adaptability. 

Carlo Ratti Associati and Michel Virlogeux propose design for the collapsed Baltimore bridge

The main span of the bridge will be stretching from 1,200-foot (365 meters) to 2,230-foot (700 meters), the primary support pillars will be situated in very shallow water - with a depth of approximately 23 feet (2,13 meters) - well away from the navigation channel used by large vessels. 

"This approach aims to ensure that accidents such as the one that occurred last March, causing the former bridge to collapse, will not happen again," said Carlo Ratti Associati.

Furthermore, a larger roadway, with a new lane added in each direction, will accommodate increased vehicle capacity, addressing the high traffic levels across the bridge. 

The design will also increase clearance from 185 feet (56 meters) to 230 feet (70 meters), in line with the shipping industry's latest standards, making the Port of Baltimore a major international port in the coming years.

The project follows Professor Carlo Ratti’s work at the MIT Senseable City Lab, whose project “Good Vibrations” investigated innovative ways to monitor the structural safety of bridges using cellphone data. 

Drawing on this research, the proposed smart features of the project allow for safe traffic management and predictive maintenance techniques.

Carlo Ratti Associati and Michel Virlogeux propose design for the collapsed Baltimore bridge

The project is designed in collaboration with renowned French consulting engineer and designer Michel Virlogeux, who designed several of the world’s most significant cable-stayed bridges, including Lisbon’s Ponto Vasco da Gama and the tallest bridge on Earth, the Millau Viaduct in the Occitania region of France. 

The Baltimore design has been developed for the international construction group Webuild, whose Italian branch was responsible for the reconstruction, carried out in record time, of the Ponte Morandi in Genoa, Italy, which collapsed in August 2018 following severe weather.

"In terms of sustainability, Baltimore’s cable-stayed design is one of the most material-efficient ways to build at the proposed span, minimizing the project’s embodied carbon," said Carlo Ratti Associati. 

Moreover, the need to build artificial islands to protect the pillars which would significantly disrupt the ecosystem of the Patapsco River, which is home to many native migratory fish species, is eliminated.

The design also intends to minimize disturbance to the "accidental bird sanctuary" on the nearby artificial island of Fort Carroll. Focusing on renewable energy solutions, the design optimizes energy efficiency with the help of photovoltaic panels designed throughout the entire area.

"Opting for a cable-stayed solution enables the piles to be positioned at a safe distance, well away from the navigation channel used by large vessels and hence preventing the risk of a tragedy such as the one of March 26 happening again," said Carlo Ratti, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and founding partner of CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati.

"This approach also provides a light-weight solution to reconnect two sides of Baltimore, both socially and economically - what American infrastructure should be striving to do in the 21st century," Ratti added.

The new bridge is expected to be a shining symbol of the city of Baltimore, and of the United States as a whole, marking the entrance to one of the most significant shipping ports on the East Coast. 

Carlo Ratti Associati and Michel Virlogeux propose design for the collapsed Baltimore bridge

This proposal is one of many projects that CRA has developed as part of its commitment to innovation and energy efficiency. Notable initiatives within this line include the Hot Heart Helsinki, a decarbonized heating system, and the ANAS Smart Road, a sensory infrastructure for enhanced road mobility. 

Carlo Ratti Associati, together with Coldefy, have unveiled the design of the French Pavilion at Osaka Expo 2025. The firm is also designing a business canteen which is set to be built in the countryside near Parma, Italy.

Project facts

A project by: CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati with Michel Virlogeux for Webuild

CRA Team: Carlo Ratti, Luca Bussolino, Claudia Dorman Alonso, Giulia Tolu, Andrea Cavaggion, Gary Di Silvio

Images © Brick Visual, courtesy of Webuild-Carlo Ratti Associati-Michel Virlogeux.

> via Carlo Ratti Associati

Baltimore bridge Carlo Ratti Associati reconstruction