Connecting people. It’s the mission, in its simplest form, of engineers who design bridges.
That mission took on a much higher calling for the Olsson team responsible for Abraham’s Bridge on the Tri-Faith Initiative Commons.
Abraham’s Bridge connects four buildings on Omaha's Tri-Faith campus: three houses of worship representing the Abrahamic faiths – Temple Israel (Jewish), The American Muslim Institute (Islamic), Countryside Community Church (Christian) – and an interfaith center that will be a hub of educational events and resources.
But this bridge connects more than buildings and people. The circular bridge was created to cultivate a sense of community between those with differing religious views.
At 1,440-feet in diameter, the bridge was the brainchild of Olsson landscape architect Doug Halvorson, who designed the master plan for the Sterling Ridge development that includes the Tri-Faith Initiative. He conceived the bridge to be accessible from all houses of worship and to serve as a way for the congregations to interact.
“When I showed how I would connect everything with a giant circle bridge, they just loved the concept,” Halvorson said. “To me, it’s the epitome of spirituality. It’s clean, never-ending, never-beginning. And it ties everything together in a perfect way.”
Halvorson’s idea was hatched in 2010. The Tri-Faith Initiative overcame several setbacks and went through a few different designs across a span of several years.
When Countryside Community Church joined the initiative and reoriented its building, the Tri-Faith Initiative board of directors opted to shrink the footprint of the Tri-Faith Center and push more programming into the congregational spaces.
Reenter the circle bridge — and Olsson.
“Being mindful that collaboration is very important to the Tri-Faith community, the bridge is a way to connect members of the congregations to each other and serves as our connective tissue, both literally and figuratively,” said Wendy Goldberg, executive director of the Tri-Faith Initiative.
The design required specialized geometry and tight tolerances, especially on the bridge spans. Olsson’s Roads and Bridges team determined that a unique prefabricated steel system would satisfy the tight tolerances needed to maintain a consistent circular shape.
To simplify construction, the design called for a modular steel superstructure system with curved hollow structural sections.
Olsson performed structural, civil and electrical engineering, landscape architecture, and hydraulic and environmental planning for the circular walkway.
Abraham’s Bridge connects diverse ideas and draws together people of different beliefs and world views.
“The bridge exceeds everyone’s expectations,” Goldberg said. “The congregational partners and neighbors use the bridge daily to move between the buildings. The neighbors didn’t have access to this land when it was a golf course, and now they bring their bikes and strollers to use the walkway. That’s the beautiful part because we want Tri-Faith to be accessible to our neighbors. We’re part of the fabric of the neighborhood, and the bridge is a beautiful asset that connects everyone together.”
Olsson is a nationally recognized engineering firm made up of people who craft expert solutions and designs that improve communities. The firm offers design and consulting services in planning and design, engineering, field services, environmental and technology. For more information, go to www.olsson.com.