The result of a multidisciplinary collaboration between architects and engineers, FunambOule is a self-supporting footbridge spanning a pedestrian portion of Saint-Catherine Street, in Montreal, Quebec. Designed by Architecturama and Latéral, the footbridge allows visitors a new vantage point where the famous multicoloured suspended balls are at eye level. FunambOule was conceived as a self-standing span that can be disassembled and reassembled at a new location each year.
Reminiscent of tightrope walkers, visitors float six metres above Saint-Catherine Street, blending with the multicoloured plastic balls. Walking on the open grating is akin to birds perching on a wire. Visitors may even be able to experience the suspension bridge effect and fall in love! (Capilano Suspension Bridge experiment study, Donald Dutton and Arthur Aron, psychologists, 1974)
Being a creative architectural installation as well as having an inherently marked structural expression, FunambOule is the result of a strong collaboration between architects and engineers. Architecturama and Latéral worked jointly to define and optimize the shape and architectural expression of the project, as well as the overall constructability. Curved and lightweight steel trusses are suspended from two independent towers. The curvature of the trusses is the same as that of the suspended balls. The steel members used were optimized for transport and ease of manipulation—the entire construction being assembled like a giant Mecano.
Architecture and Structure
Several major constraints needed to be considered during design:
• The entire structure needed to be self-supporting. Fixing into the road or sidewalk was not permitted. Counterweights had to be used to resist wind and earthquake conditions.
• The shape of the bridge deck need to follow the catenary shape of the suspended balls. Enough clearance for a firetruck was also required, as well as clear height and dimensional requirements for the stairs and landings.
• FunambOule needed to be assembled and disassembled easily. The structure is stored during the winter. The footbridge was therefore designed as individual pieces with specific dimensional and weight restrictions.
• Architectural expression: the goal was to create an interesting, impressive and playful installation, that fits in well with the ludic language of the multi-coloured balls.
A repetition of triangular shapes formed the basis for the structural and architectural expression of the footbridge. Triangulation is a simple and minimalist articulation while structurally effective. The diagonals and horizontals for the guard and handrail were designed as elegant thin tubular steel elements. For structural minimalism, the handrail acts as a horizontal truss. The steel elements that make-up the footbridge all act together as a coherent whole, combining architectural expression, structural efficiency and constructability.