ALREADY HOME TO THE LONGEST, HIGHEST and possibly most terrifying glass bridge in the world ─ the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge which opened on August 20, 2016 built by Tel Aviv architect Haim Dotan ─ France’s Martin Duplantier Architectes will be building three chasm-spanning reflective bridges (one with water on black stone and artificial cloud-making machine) and three pavilions that will offer visitors out-of-this-world views and the experience of floating in mid-air. You can even lie down in the void to maximise the experience (Don’t worry, there’ll be strong nets).
Zhangjiajie will soon be known as quite a cliff-hanger of a place because of the opportunities to traverse across gorges and ravines over petrifying heights and (quite literally) walk among the clouds.But let’s begin at the beginning. Zhangjiajie is a city in the northwest of China’s Hunan province. It is home to the famed Wulingyuan Scenic Area. This protected zone encompasses thousands of jagged quartzite sandstone columns, many of which rise over 200m, as well as caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites. Wulingyuan also encompasses forests, rivers, waterfalls and two large natural land bridges, as well as endangered plant and animal species.
The chasm-spanning reflective bridge project will be located in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, one of several national parks within the Wulingyuan Scenic Area and a UNESCO World Heritage site with remarkable pillar-like rock formations that was filmed as the Hallelujah Mountains in the 2009 movie Avatar. Remember that one? Zhangjiajie is the real Pandora. See video of scene below:
Avatar Flight with the Mountain Banshees
Martin Duplantier Architectes got the go-ahead with the project last year after a competition seeking ideas for a new visitor route on the western part of Zhiangjiajie. The competition called for bridges and pavilions. Here are the architects’ observation of the place and the design concept.
“The landscape is baroque. Unique. Breathtaking. It is world heritage site. The mountains rise like nimble fingers towards the sky. The vegetation, against all odds, has managed to grow on this invincible rock. Faced with this topographical spectacle, all are left astounded.
“The concept developed is that of illusionist development. Stealthy. Geometric. Contrasting with a complex landscape, the footbridges are of pure geometric shapes, which seem to have been placed delicately on the carved relief of the site.”
The Three Bridges and Pavilions
One bridge takes the form of an elliptical disk, with an off-centered hole covered by a net that allows fearless types to lay down in the void. Another has two levels, with the lower one promising visitors the opportunity to sit or lie down and feel like they’re floating in mid air.
The third bridge will include 2cm of water on black stone to create a reflective effect. Spray nozzles will also create artificial clouds.
“They are the opportunity, each in its own respect, to create a physical relationship with this rock face. The illusion of a mirror for the one, the fear of the void for the next, and lastly the setting in abyss for the final. The common material is reflective stainless steel for structure and black stone for flooring. The latter reflects the landscape when covered with water.”
The pavilions will be installed in three levels: a 360 panorama at the highest point, a cafe below, and a VIP suite below both which will allow visitors to spend a night in the park.
“Consisting of the same materials, the pavilions develop on three separate levels. Upstairs, a terrace-panorama is directly accessible from the path. Underneath, a café and its dedicated spaces. And further below, a royal guesthouse to offer a unique space of contemplation in the heart of the national park. The crowds of the day having disappeared, the lucky tenants will be able to enjoy the spectacle in perfect solitude.”