Sundial Bridge: An Architectural Gem with an Uncommon Design
The Redding, CA landmark offers easy access, away from the bustle
I stood mesmerized by the sleek, slanted, gleaming white column brightly lit by the evening sun against the clear blue sky. The cables tying the column to where I was standing, a pedestrian bridge across the Sacramento River in Redding, California with translucent glass panels for the deck, made it all the more intriguing and aesthetically pleasing.
I got the first glimpses of the Sundial Bridge when a friend of ours had visited and posted its pictures years ago. The photos were so intriguing that I wanted to visit the bridge. But it would be more than five years before I could fulfill that plan!
The wait was worth it.
Designed by Santiago Calatrava, a Spanish Swiss architect of international renown, the bridge sports a massive tower. As a structural engineer, Calatrava has a long list of projects around the world known for their architectural statements.
The Sundial Bridge in Redding uses many of the design elements of Calatrava’s other projects but adds a twist too.
The bridge features a tower, slanted at 42 degrees, that appears to reach for the heavens. It acts as a cantilever and counterbalances the weight of the bridge with the help of 14 cables. The strength and integrity of these cables are vital. They support both the tower and the bridge by helping them counterbalance each other. Their visual aesthetics are what we see and enjoy as we take a stroll.
The Sundial Bridge is an assembly of parts manufactured in faraway locations. The steel cables were made in England; the translucent glass panels that form the deck came from Quebec; the steel support structure of the bridge itself was made in Vancouver, Washington; and Spain provided the broken white tiles used for decoration of the sundial.
Interestingly, this bridge uses gravity in a creative way. The conventional design uses support on either bank (and sometimes more) of a river. This keeps the deck of the bridge from collapsing due to gravity. Calatrava’s design uses the gravitational pull on the bridge as well as the pylon tower to cancel…