Pedestrian bridge in L.A.: designed by students, built by robots

A collaboration between Mary and David Martin’s MADWORKSHOP foundation and a design course at the USC School of Architecture in Los Angeles, the project was developed using innovative methods and technologies.

Experimenting with new interactions between humans and robots to create unique and otherwise impossible architecture: this is the aim of the Arroyo Bridge project, initially developed by students at the USC School of Architecture in Los Angeles. The goal of the design and construction course was to build a 25-metre, single-span bridge that is environmentally friendly and relates sensitively to the natural landscape. The structure is inspired by the vascular architecture of leaves and the branching systems of trees.

Computational tools and digital fabrication techniques enabled the structure to be optimised. The complex geometry of the bridge made it almost impossible to build using traditional techniques and methods. The team devised a process of building it in parts, remotely. At the Autodesk Technology Center in San Francisco, they developed specific software to instruct the robotic arms to hold the parts in place and allow welding between elements, which was done by humans. Over 600 parts were assembled in this way.

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