Malta’s Grand Harbour served during the nineteenth Century as a British naval base in the Mediterranean. To improve its already magnificent natural conditions, in 1903 they began building a two arms breakwater that would protect it from the strong north and northeast winds that are common in the winter months.
The arm of Fort St. Elmo (378-m) was constructed independent from the coast of Valletta to avoid water stagnation and allow passage of small vessels, and was made accessible via a steel footbridge with two spans of 34.4 m, erected in 1906.
This gateway formed by two isostatic Pratt lattices of curved top chord supported by a central pier, was partially destroyed during an attack from a ship in 1941 during World War II, so it was dismantled soon after, leaving the breakwater and lighthouse isolated from the coast up to today.
Malta Maritime Authority (Transport Malta) convened an international competition for the footbridge reconstruction, whose statement called for a single span bridge, with an arch geometry and supported by the existing concrete abutments. It also was required to preserve the remains of the center pier for memorial purposes, but it could not been used as support for the new structure that might be designed.
The Arenas$Asociados proposal, winner of the competition, was an asymmetric footbridge with a Pratt Truss as the main structural element, with a span/rise relation similar than the original footbridge. This truss, aligned with the existing outer protection walls in direct contact with the sea, supports the deck through cantilevers, creating a unique balcony to the Valleta’s Grand Harbor.
The variable depth of the ribs allows the separation of the deck to the existing pier, but creating a “false” feeling of support. The projected footbridge answers the strict economic conditionings (2.5M€), fulfilling the formal requirements, and giving a contemporary solution to the problem, but also respecting the history of the location. This footbridge is a step to the future, creating not only a bridge, but also a viewpoint for all the citizens.