Viaduct at Université de Montréal

Photo credit: civiliti
Photo credit: civiliti

In forthcoming years, the University of Montréal will be opening a second campus located on a former railway yard. Existing tracks had to be relocated in order to accommodate the new facilities and a new viaduct was built over the campus’ future access road. The site was dug to allow the underpass, then bermed up slightly to accommodate the 24-metre steel bridge structure. The reinforced concrete abutments extend into zigzagging retaining walls, creating a dynamic mineral landscape.

The 44-metre guardrails on either side of the viaduct were made in four sections: they are steel-framed assemblages backed by perforated steel plaques, coated with metal paint. The diagonal steel plates recall the triangulated motif of more traditional truss bridges. A similar motif was developed for the protective railings along the sidewalks below.

Facing the campus, the viaduct acts as a backdrop that comes to life at night when four light ‘tableaux’, inspired by Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawings, appear and disappear in the dark. Generated by 135 LED light bars inserted on the diagonal grid of the west guardrail, they are programmed to produce ephemeral patterns in constant movement. The chosen theme for this virtual animation is that of the four seasons: drops of rain, followed by snowflakes, allude to the fall and winter seasons; creepers announce the spring and fireflies celebrate the summer.

Photo credit: civiliti
Photo credit: civiliti

The east guardrail is treated in a more static but no less dramatic way. At night, the upper structure appears to float above its sculptural base, every detail emphasized by lighting. The geometric pattern used for the architectural guardrails is reproduced on the railings protecting the parallel sidewalks, below the viaduct.

Responsible for the architectural and lighting treatment of this bridge, the designers believed that a subtle and poetic use of light would resonate within the heavily transformed environment. They hoped to draw attention to the railway yard’s history, soon to be totally eradicated with the advent of new university pavilions and urban streetscape.

The project was completed by designers civiliti and engineers Groupe S.M. International.

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