The Historic Buriano Bridge


Italy, 2021
Client: Provincia di Arezzo

The historic Buriano bridge across the Arno has inspired artists and writers for centuries, and its presence within the Regional Reserve of Ponte Buriano and Penna acts to unify the concepts of culture and nature within the park. ASDEA Srl took part in the design competition organized by the Province of Arezzo as lead applicant of a group of professionals. The group placed third in the tender competition to design a bridge and alternative road system to replace the historic Buriano bridge in the province of Arezzo. The tender call included the design of a new bridge connected to the new alternative road system, thus allowing the old bridge to become part of a unique naturalistic route. The contest included the requalification of the space under the bridge along the banks, the unification of the bridge into the nature reserve and tourist areas, placing a new emphasis on the area as a site for slow mobility and sustainable traffic, and the integration and extension of nearby cycling paths.

The group’s submission centered around the design of a 5-span bridge 25-35-70- 35-25 m placed within a new traffic route. We proposed a traffic system to divert the flow of traffic away from the old bridge and to the new bridge. The system would start from the intersection in the south and develop northwards into a prevalently agricultural-productive area. It would then cross the river and continue to join the SP n. 56 dello Spicchio by way of a roundabout. The SP n. 56 would be further developed to be able to manage the new traffic flows and to continue the proposed bike path that would cross the old Ponte Buriano and continue along the new roads. The stretch of the SP No. 1, no longer subject to the massive flow of users coming from or going to Arezzo, thus assumes a new meaning, becoming a privileged place for slow and sustainable mobility, as well as an additional piece for the wider network of bicycle and pedestrian that has already developed in this area.
Given the immense natural beauty of the setting, we wanted the design of the bridge to be unobtrusive, “the bridge that isn’t.” The group carefully considered different possible arrangements before settling on the specific 5-span bridge mentioned above. The width of the central span eliminates the need for piers in the riverbed, meaning the structure wouldn’t interfere with the course of the river. Furthermore, the team wanted to rethink the area underneath the bridge and decided to create a small rest area for pedestrians and cyclists using the new alternative mobility paths. This also led to the idea of working on the piers themselves, and one of the piers, instead of just supporting the bridge would further contribute to creating a functional and beautiful rest area. An arch shape with integrated seats was designed for one pier, to create this unique and innovative rest stop. Also consistent with the idea of a bridge in harmony with the surrounding landscape and a focus on the pastoral beauty of the setting, an idea was hatched to have the bridge literally reflect and become nearly indistinguishable from the already breathtaking panorama.
For the shell of the bridge, a reflective metal sheet covering was selected, meaning that the colors of the bridge itself would undulate and morph with the movement of the sun in the sky and the transitioning of the seasons. The bridge would come to embody the varying blues of the sky alternating with the grays of the clouds, the intense spots of green from the trees and the grasses, the yellows and more tenuous greens of nearby cultivated fields, and finally, the metallic reflections from the water itself unhindered in its timeless journey. A reflective but not mirrored shell made from aluminum with a micro-faceted finish was chosen after careful study of the materials available on the market to prevent intrusive reflections that could disturb nearby wildlife and motorists. Another key innovative feature of the proposal was the choice to use the idea of the array of natural colors and brightness as a unifying thread running through the entire project by strategically incorporating photoluminescent elements. Using epoxy resins and photoluminescent materials, solar rays would be absorbed during the day and released at night for a diffuse luminescence that would elegantly meet the needs of those using the cycling paths and other areas at times of low light (dusk and night) while being eco-friendly and non-contributing to light pollution. The bridge itself, at night, reflecting the stars, the moon, and their reflections on the water would nearly disappear into the shadows but for a horizontal line of green-gold luminescence.
The Open-Air Museum touristic path through the nature reserve would be lit using photoluminescent elements at key areas, as would the archways overhanging the riverbank rest areas. The photoluminescent aspects of the pier would turn it into a sort of sculpture identifying the place, and the soft luminescence of the arch would evoke the image of the glow of summer fireflies. The result would be a simple yet stunning bridge that is a focal point of modern architectural beauty that at the same time blends effortlessly into the already existing panorama as an unobtrusive witness to the passage of time, hopefully inspiring the poets of the future as did the historic bridge it would replace.