Engineering art

Most people would recognise the beauty in the design of the New Shougang Bridge, recently constructed in Beijing. But can critical engineering components, such as the expansion joints that allow its superstructure to move, also be considered beautiful? We like to think so!

A spectacular new bridge has recently been constructed in the Chinese capital – the sort of structure that reminds engineers why they became engineers in the first place. The New Shougang Bridge extends Chang'an Avenue, one of Beijing’s most important roads which leads to Tiananmen Square in central Beijing, across the Yongding River. It is the world's first twin-tower cable-stayed steel composite bridge, with a total length of 1,354 m and two asymmetrical arch-shaped towers symbolising gates to the city centre. Its main structure is 639 m long, and its main span of 280 m is the longest in Beijing. Its width of 54.9 m, accommodating eight traffic lanes as well as cycle- and footways, makes it the widest steel bridge in China. It is an entirely welded structure that used 45,000 tonnes of steel plates in its construction. The process of assembling the bridge’s two enormous sloping towers – key elements of its striking design – from prefabricated steel segments is shown in this 45-second video.

While we cannot claim that our bridge components, which are primarily designed to maximise long-term functionality with minimal effort and expense, are works of art, we like to think there is a certain beauty in them. As mathematicians see beauty in mathematics, engineers see beauty in well-engineered structures and components. And we see beauty in our TENSA® MODULAR expansion joint, two of which are installed at the bridge’s ends. There was beauty in its invention by mageba over half a century ago, when it revolutionised the world of bridge expansion joints – offering an entirely new level of movement flexibility and the ability to accommodate extremely large movements in a far better way than was ever possible before. And there is beauty in how it has been continually developed ever since then, maintaining its status as arguably the world’s most advanced and most trustworthy modular joint – among other things, in relation to durability (including especially resistance to fatigue), seismic safety and noise reduction.  

The work we do at mageba is not assembly line production of structural components; in fact, almost all of the products we sell require project-specific design and individual fabrication, tailoring them for the unique structures in which they will be installed and for the particular design requirements that apply. There is no room for boredom or complacency. We have passion for what we do and take pride in our work – especially when we have opportunities to contribute to the construction of extraordinarily attractive structures such as the New Shougang Bridge.

The beautiful New Shougang Bridge in Beijing is the world's first twin-tower cable-stayed steel composite bridge, with a main span of length 280 m and two asymmetrical arch-shaped towers

Day or night, the bridge would be a striking addition to any cityscape

View of the new bridge from one end, showing one of its TENSA® MODULAR expansion joints in the foreground

mageba supplied 47 m of seven-gap TENSA® MODULAR expansion joint, shown here during lifting into position, for one end of the bridge, and 47 m of four-gap joint for the other

The joints were designed for concreted connections to the bridge’s abutments, and welded connections to its steel deck

The modular expansion joints feature mageba’s patented asymmetric control system for even distribution of movements among the joints’ gaps, and rubber hump seals that protect against the ingress of dirt and debris into the gaps

Testing of a spherical bearing at mageba’s NATA-certified (ILAC MRA) laboratory in Sydney, before installation to support the stage structure