Shi Ling Bridge
ARUPS 50 YEARS OF BRIDGE DESIGN, 2009
three routes fly through the air
light as a feather, strong as a bone
Shell Lace Structure is a technique inspired by nature. Seashells gain strength from optimised
curvilinear geometry, locking in stiffness with corrugation. Lightness is achieved through
perforation, creating highly-efficient and responsive structures with minimum weight and wastage.
The technique has been developed through research and experiment with digital modelling, digital
analysis, and digital fabrication tools. The design process is intuitive, analytical and iterative.
Three-dimensional geometries are built up virtually from conjoined developable surfaces. These
surfaces are unzipped at the seams, unrolled and nested allowing efficient computer aided cutting
from a flat sheet material. The cut profiles are reassembled to create the final three-dimensional
Shi Ling Stone Forest in Yunnan, China, provides a dramatic natural backdrop to demonstrate the
shell lace principles learnt from nature. This lightweight bridge spans 75 metres using a single
sheet material of 15mm thickness. The structure is composed of three asymmetrical arches that
spring from a single supporting column and three triangular torsion beams that form the curving
routes. The bridge provides views and high-level pedestrian and cycle access across one of
many valleys through the vast limestone karst landscape of Yunnan.
Architects Tonkin Liu
Location Yunnan, China
Size 75 m (span)
Sustainability & Energy Arup
Awards Royal Academy AJ/Lend Lease Award
Exhibitions Royal Academy; Arup Gallery, 'Bridge Stories: 50 years of Bridge Design'; Nous
Gallery, 'Spontaneous Schooling: Shell Lace Structures'