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WSP wins Bridge of the Year 2015 Award

WSP in Finland has received the Bridge of the Year 2015 award from the Finnish Association of Civil Engineers (RIL) for its design of the Ylisoutaja Bridge in Joensuu.


 Ylisoutaja Bridge in Joensuu, Finland

In the jury’s opinion, the bridge excellently updates traditional bridge design to the present day. WSP in Finland was responsible for the Ylisoutaja bridge design, including ground engineering, lighting and landscape architecture. The design team included WSP subconsultants Arkkitehdit NRT Oy, the architectural designer, and Thomson Engineering Consultants who was responsible for machinery design, Suomen Sähkörakennus Oy for safety device and remote control design, and Trafix Oy for the swing-bridge automation design.

The Ylisoutaja Bridge is based on the submission “Swing”, which won an engineering competition organized by the City of Joensuu and RIL in 2011. Located at the mouth of the River Pielisjoki, a prominent site in the cityscape, the bridge was constructed by Kesälahden Maansiirto Oy. The Ylisoutaja bridge connects the new residential area of Penttilänranta to the inner city grid plan and is an essential element of the new traffic solution for the area.

Ylisoutaja Bridge by night in Joensuu, Finland

A bold approach to design

The winning design is an orthotropic deck beam bridge consisting of:

  • an openable section and fixed approach sections
  • the main beams and deck are made of weather-resistant steel
  • the total length is 134 metres and effective width is 5 metres
  • the railings are wooden, bent vertical laths and the deck surfacing is a combination of asphalt and mortar
  • LEDs integrated into the handrails and edge beams illuminate both the running surface and the wooden façade
  • the bridge will be opened roughly 500 times a year by remote control

“A swing bridge was selected as the type of openable bridge due to its operational reliability and speed of opening. The underlying visual concept is the curved shape of the bridge and the lower edge of the wooden lathing used as railings. Together with the lathing, it gives the sides of the bridge a convex shape, and overall the bridge takes on an understated sculptural aspect in its environment. In the dark, the lighting highlights the character of the bridge. The glowing light within the railings emphasizes the shape of the railing laths,” explain Sami Niemelä and Pia Salmi from WSP.

WSP’s design team included Chief Designer Sami Niemelä M.Sc.(Eng.) and Bridge Designers Ilkka Ojala M.Sc.(Eng.) and Antti Silvennoinen M.Sc.(Eng.). Kari-Matti Malmivaara M.Sc.(Eng.) was responsible for the ground engineering, Pia Salmi (M.A) and Tom Schneider M.Sc.(Eng.) for the lighting, and Hiroko Kiviranta for the landscape architecture.

“The design and lighting of the bridge are very successful. In addition, use of materials is innovative. The boldness of the designer is evident in the implementation of the opening bridge as a turning bridge around an apparently slender central support. The bridge is an efficient structure – it has nothing that needs to be added or removed,” says Jury Chair, Timo Tirkkonen of the Finnish Transport Agency.

The theme of this year’s competition was “insight from an engineer’s perspective”. The goal of the competition, organized each year by RIL, is to raise the standard of bridge design in Finland and to draw special attention to the successful appearance of bridges and their compatibility with the environment.