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Arup Builds a Lifeline in Remote China

BritCham / CBBC
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From 21 December to 5 January, a team of Arup engineers travelled to Mixia Village in Yunnan Province, China to build an Arup-designed bridge with student volunteers from the Kunming University of Science and Technology, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
As part of Arup’s ongoing collaboration with Wu Zhi Qiao Charitable Foundation, the bridge provides safe journeys for the commuting villagers between Mixia and its surrounding villages which were often interrupted by damages to a makeshift bamboo bridge caused by the river flooding.

Built by hand
Among all the 22 completed Wu Zhi Qiao bridges, the Mixia bridge is situated in a location with the most complicated geographic conditions, which requires the finest technical skills.  To withstand the devastating floods, the bridge has an impressive 20m clear span with a vertical clearance of 6m. Due to durability and longevity, the bridge is constructed out of galvanised steel with rocks and stones from around the site used as counterweights. 

To build a culturally sensitive and highly sustainable bridge, Arup held a company-wide design competition, and the winning scheme was adopted as the basis for detailed design. After several site visits, the design was fine-tuned considering the on-site constructability. A small team of volunteers also travelled to steel fabrication and assembly sponsor S-couvrot’s factory in Shanghai for a mock-up of the bridge assembly process to ensure smooth construction on site.

Beyond the physical bridge
In addition to the bridge programme, the team also visited Balong Primary School, brought clothes and stationary donated by Arup’s Hong Kong office, refurbished school desks and chairs and had a circle painting fun day with the students.

To student volunteers the project provided a valuable opportunity to work with and learn from professional engineers, and link textbook learning with real world application. Vincent Tse from School of Architecture, the Chinese University of Hong Kong reflects: "The construction trip gave me a clearer picture of the whole design and construction process. I come to understand that a good design requires a thorough consideration of all the aspects — not only an impressive form but also the ease of construction and its integration with the surroundings, for example."

Mixia Village is located at the southern end of Yunnan Province, close to the China-Vietnam border. A primitive bamboo bridge used to be the only link between the 2,000 villagers to the external communities, but this lifeline to education and agriculture was often damaged or completely washed away by raging flooding in the rainy season. The natural and geographic conditions constrain the economic growth of the area, with the villagers living on an annual income of about RMB 1,000. The Arup-Wu Zhi Qiao Bridge will not only provide a safe and stable passage but also help to improve the livelihood of the locals.

Source: Arup

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