Bridging the gap between city, university

A group of fourth-year Western Engineering students could very well have their names on a Canadian first should the City of London run with their innovative bridge design.

Sigma Innovations – comprised of Codie Crockford, Katheryn Madonia, Jason Speir, Philip Santana and Sylvia Broschinski – took top honours in the 15th annual City of London Design Competition. The event gives fourth-year Civil and Environmental Engineering students the opportunity to showcase their design skills on planned projects for the city.

Since its inception in 1997, designs developed by students have been recognized as springboards for several noteworthy city construction projects including bridges in Gibbons and Springbank parks, Labatt Memorial Park grandstands and twinning the Veterans’ Memorial Parkway bridges.

For Sigma Innovations, their goal was all in their name.

“Our group wanted to be innovative, so we did some research and came across a stress-ribbon bridge and liked its design and esthetic appeal,” Santana said. “When we saw there weren’t any in Canada, our group decided to take on this challenge to go ahead and design it.”

The group focused on an area south of Horton Street, commonly known as the SoHo Neighbourhood, to design a pedestrian bridge for Richard B. Harrison Park, as part of the SoHo Community Improvement Plan.

Santana said the bridge is inherent to its surroundings and corresponds to the social and cultural character of the region, with minimum environmental impact from construction through maintenance.

“The bridge is aesthetically pleasing and is designed to express the flow of internal forces within the structure,” he said. “It provides an innovative solution that adds value to the surrounding area. When you see the bridge, it has a restrained elegance look to it as well it has a very simple design.”

The arch-supported stress-ribbon bridge, a modern form of rudimentary rope or hanging-cable bridges, is popular in Europe, but less than 10 have been constructed in North America – none in Canada.

So how does a group of fourth-year students present a design never to have been attempted in the country? Sell its finer points, Speir said.

“It’s very slender with a simplistic design and doesn’t obstruct the views of the natural surroundings,” he said, noting the construction timeline is a quick 14 weeks with a $1.5 million pricetag. “So in that respect it’s feasible. Just the novelty that it would be the first one in Canada kind of excites people. And being in the SoHo region, they are trying to re-invent and give the area a new look and I think this is a good fit.”

Due to the uniqueness of the bridge, it was designed with ease of construction in mind, Santana added. “We would ask ourselves if this was possible to do and that allowed us to go from start to finish with a very simple design,” he said.

For Speir, the design process, which began last September, was all about stretching the imagination.

“At first we were really excited about the look of it and the idea of it, but we didn’t know if it was feasible,” he said. “As we researched it more and looked into it, we found it was. And that was part of the learning experience in the whole process. Even our professors had to learn along with us. So it’s not just the students learning and that’s something that got us excited about this project.”



The City of London 15th Annual Design Competition winners, who share $3,750 in prize money, included:

First place. Sigma Innovations: Jason Speir, Sylvia Broschinski, Codie Crockford, Katheryn Madonia and Phillip Santana for their design of a footbridge at Harrison Park over the Thames River.

Second place. RDA Consulting: Tara Chevrier, Joel Donkervoort, Kristopher Mandeville, Lindsey Mitchell and Nemin Zhu for their design of a footbridge at Harrison Park over the Thames River.

Third place. McENN Inc.: Colin Schmidt, Nicholas Agam, Emanuel Benyamin, Marsha Cooke and Natasha Lee for their design of chemical treat system at Greenway Pollution Control Centre.