volkan alkanoglu takes cues from shipmaking to build undulating timber 'drift' bridge

Aug 04, 2021

oregon-based designer volkan alkanoglu completes an organic and undulating pedestrian bridge dubbed ‘drift.’ the timber and steel construction has been fabricated off-site and installed in just a few hours in fort worth, texas. this feat marks an innovative example of plug-and-play urbanism, an emerging sustainable and affordable design strategy that proposes building infrastructural elements off site and dropping them into place. ‘drift’ stands at the intersection of public art, civic design, architecture, and infrastructure. it is a community-driven, site-specific project that bridges a physical divide — a creek — between two halves of one neighborhood. at the same time, the fabrication and installation techniques employed can be applied to a wide range of communities and use cases.

in the design of the ‘drift’ pedestrian bridge, volkan alkanoglu drew inspiration from the westcreek site and its immediate surroundings. the creek bed across which the bridge spans seasonally shifts from a container for flowing water to a dry basin filled with driftwood. this process of transformation, and the left over driftwood, drove the bridge’s material palette and form. the mid-century modern ranch style homes that fill the neighborhoods on either side of the creek also offered fodder. drawing a line between the bridge and the fabric of the neighborhood, volkan alkanoglu looked to such molded plywood innovations as ray and charles eames’ leg splint, made during the same era as the homes.

volkan alkanoglu’s resulting 62-foot-long ‘drift’ bridge resembles a smooth, curving branch of driftwood, arcing over the creek and uniting the neighborhood. at the same time, it recalls the hull of a ship, with a convex underbelly and a concave hull containing a pathway, benches, and railings. these elements are all integrated into the single, fluid form, where irregular undulations and curves are engineered for seating and support.

while alkanoglu originally envisioned fabricating the ‘drift’ bridge solely from cross-laminated timber, budgetary constraints encouraged a different but equally innovative strategy. taking a cue from shipbuilding techniques, he and a team of engineers began with a steel armature, but veered away from tradition by cladding it with CNC-cut and flip-milled timber planks — a product of computational design. in this way, each plank is custom cut, then stack-laminated into one large, volumetric, undulating form.

project info:

project title: drift

architecture: volkan alkanoglu

location: fort worth, texas

client: city of fort worth, fort worth public art program

public art manager: anne allen

fabrication: ignition arts LLC, brownsmith studios

structural engineering: CMID engineers

geotechnical engineering: alpha testing

material testing: simpson, gumpertz & heger inc.

concept engineering: AKT II

photography: jennifer boomer, peter molick