The Transporter Dredge

[a drawing from our Landscapes and Instruments project shows the Avellaneda Transporter Bridge reconstructed as an instrument for cleaning the Riachuelo Canal- a sort of Transporter Dredge]
The Old Avellaneda Bridge spans the Riachuelo Canal near its mouth, uniting the working class neighborhood of La Boca with the Dock Sud petrochemical port and the adjacent neighborhoods in the municipality of Avellaneda. Transporter bridges in general were peculiar and rather rare creatures, akin to some sort of rare beast that has not only outlived its epoch, but never really had one in the first place. They consisted of a platform suspended by cables or a frame from an elevated span. This platform would then be trundled back and forth along a track integrated in to the span across a navigable body of water, leaving most of the span free for the passage of commercial maritime traffic, for instance. Evidently these seemed to make some sense for a time, especially in urban areas, as they didn’t require long ramps required to elevate a deck.
The Buenos Aires bridge was no different. Started in 1908 and finished in 1914, the bridge quickly became wildly impractical as automobiles became more prevalent. A new bridge with a continuous deck that can be raised to accommodate ships was built during WWII a stone’s throw away and the transporter bridge fell in to disuse by 1960. Of course, something this beguiling and ridiculous cannot help but win fans. For the most part this meant appearing in a million tourist photos, the latest iterations of which are geotagged and pop up in google maps and Flickr albums. However, it has also inspired at least fifteen years of patrimonial conversations and serious efforts to refurbish and preserve the bridge, the latest round of which is lead by the apparently serious Fundacion x La Boca, which has been organizing a number of powerful and funded government agencies. In fact, during some recent “field reconnaissance” (not to be confused with being a tourist) we came across the below sign:
[“Transporter Bridge Renovation and its adjacencies, neighborhoods La Boca and Isla Maciel; the Riachuelo recovers, the Transporter bridge works again” these statements appear to be the epitome of frothy and unbridled optimism; nonetheless, the rather serious and impressive list of governmental agencies, ngo’s, and the Argentine Navy]
This is potentially exciting, although as designers we can’t help but think than rather than simply restoring the transporter bridge to its former use, while using other instruments to clean the canal, the old transporter bridge might be reconstructed as one of the main figures in the cleaning of the Riachuelo. The ability of the transporter bridge to carry a load back and forth suspended from cables might be taken advantage of to dredge the bed load of contaminated sediment moving through the Riachuelo Canal. If this sediment could be trapped and extracted before fanning out into the Rio de la Plata, not only would this help ACUMAR realize its remediation goals and create environmental benefits for the ecological reserves in the estuary, but also the commercial and economic benefits to the Dock Sud Port might be substantial. This is due to no longer needing to treat all of the spoils from a much larger area they dredge as contaminated. Perhaps this is the real calling of this beautiful and preposterous structure, the Transporter Bridge as an instrument for cleaning the Riachuelo Canal, a Transporter Dredge.

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