COMPETITION: MatterBetter / August 2014
Can up-cycling be done on a landscape impacting scale ?
In 2014, a daring design brief had for objective to architecturally recycle one of the largest nuclear submarines in history. Here, its length and steel are used in the construction of a massive motorway bridge.
Recycling a 200m long Russian submarine comes with a certain set of physical constraints. For instance, the brief specified ways to deal with the nuclear chambers, and that the site would be locate within a certain distance from the seashore to accommodate somewhat realistic transport methods.
The shape and materiality of the ship naturally led the team towards the design of a bridge, for which a site remained to be found.
In the center of St Petersburg is a large span of the River Neva between the Liteynyy Bridge and the Bolsheokhtinskiy Bridge which lacks any connection across the water. This area has been highlighted in the 2025 masterplan for road infrastructure improvements for the city as a possible link to develop. There is a road in place on the Northern side of the River which creates an opportunity to extend into a bridge linking the Highways on either bank.
The colossal scale of this nautical behemoth deserved to be featured and exaggerated. The design splits the submarine in its length. It then separates the shell from the internal organs. Afterwards we matched each side of the shell with its opposite side organs. In doing so, the submarine’s volume is almost double, creating the illusion of a duplicate. Finally, the highway is channelled through the structure.
By letting the structure sit just above water level, it creates a sense of weightlessness, not unlike what it used to look like in deep sea. Designing a bridge for the first time, some research had to be conducted. An on-line 3D model of a nearby bridge of similar dimension provided basic proportions for structural needs.
Every bridge needs engineered support, for which many different solutions exist. A lattice truss was the most appropriate to generate stability in the most horizontal fashion possible, without being suspended. This allows for the submarines to face each other on an axis, offering views of dramatic dark shells to the city centre, and complex primer red internal organs to the residential districts.