Using design to create a modern connection to nature

Using design to create a modern connection to nature

Suspension bridges occupy a special place in our collective imagination, often emblematic to the cities and spaces they connect. That is why Lemay, as a project pitch finalist, jumped at the chance to design a new, cable-stayed île d’Orléans bridge near Quebec City.

Built in 1935, the existing 2-kilometre-long île d’Orléans bridge spans the Saint Lawrence River between the Beauport borough of Quebec City and Orléans Island. The new bridge, to be built just west of the original, draws an imaginary line between two large and distinct landscapes. This is a territory rich in nature and heritage, both of which acted as an inspiration for the project’s architectural and landscape interventions.

A horizontal wave-like structure defines the spaces at ground level, then rises towards the bridge towards the triangular geometry of the stay cables and belvederes. This was greatly inspired by the flight of snow geese in their migratory journey, a sight and pattern that seems both random and highly organized to the human eye. The shape, pylons and cable-stays of the bridge mirror the movements of this graceful bird, including its aerial ballet during take-off, a magnificent moment when nature offers itself a spectacle just above the water and wetlands.

Local vernacular, heritage and culture also inspired the shape, form and textures of the project’s many installations. Like the hunting caches found throughout the island’s wetland, the use of vegetation typical to the area, and the thoughtfully placed lookout points that showcase breathtaking views.

The proposed layout demonstrates a balance between honouring the functional requirements of local residents and visitors, coupled with a strong desire for conservation. Dedicated lanes for cars, cyclists and pedestrians allows for a safe and inviting bridge experience, and purposeful landscape design highlights the natural setting, including countless sprawling habitats for wildlife and flora.

Both on the bridge and throughout the project site, the team used diverse yet cohesive design thinking to not only physically connect bridge users to beautiful île d’Orléans, but also connect them to the surrounding natural environment.