Fractal Drawbridge by Adriana Rosas


As a civil engineering major, I find myself intrigued by the revolutionary structures such as skyscrapers and bridges. Upon thinking of a topic to base my midterm on, I decided to create a retractable drawbridge that’s movement when drawn aside resembles the swirl-like pattern of a fractal. Through the artistic movement of the drawbridge, this project connects a civil engineering project (drawbridge) to art.


Many architectural engineers have mastered this combination of smart engineering and art.  For example, Santiago Calatrava is a world renowned architect and engineer who has designed and constructed various masterpieces  such as the Campo Volantin Foot Bridge and Sadelhofen Railway Station in Spain. He has won the Gold Medal from the Institution of Structural Engineers in 1992 and has received the Gold Medal from American Institute of Architects in 2004.

For this project, I wanted to try to take an everyday object that is typically not seen as art and turn it into a piece of art.  I also want to explore with fractals and incorporate their interesting mathematical pattern into this project. More specifically, I would like people passing this bridge to not just see a drawbridge, but rather see a functional master piece that ties art, science and mathematics.

The basic bridge type behind this project would be a beam bridge. Because of the amount of forces that act upon beam bridges, the length would not be able to span more than 250 feet between each pier. Usually many piers are used in beam bridges to further extend its span. However, for this project the Fractal Bridge will consist of only two piers (one on each end) and a single-leaf simple trunnion bascule in order to get a clearer appreciation of the fractal motion.


Because it will be necessary for the area to be a navigable waterway to allow the passage of boats and ships, this bridge will need to retract when passage is needed. On one end of the drawbridge, there will be a bascule pier where the mechanical operating system is located. A counterweight is placed on the side of the bascule pier to minimize the energy required to lift the bridge. As the bascule leaf rises, the counterweight scoops into the bascule pier. As the trunnion bascule leaf rises, the leaf will also begin to bend over one piece at a time.  This swirl-like motion, which resembles a fractal pattern will continue until the entire leaf rests on the bascule pit.

As I have seen and learned during the first five weeks of taking DESMA 9, there are various ways one can combine two seemingly opposite subjects. With this project, I was allowed to explore the mergence of art and technology. Technology, which is comprised of science, mathematics, and engineering,  was given an artistic flare causing these cultures to all come together during this project.

If I were to further this project, I would go into more depth in regard to calculations for the bridge. I would also try to find ways to minimize the cost of construction and also find ways to make it economically sustainable. 

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