Rafael Viñoly completes circular bridge spanning a Uruguayan lagoon


Architect Rafael Viñoly has completed a ring-shaped road bridge that stretches across a lagoon on Uruguay's southern coast (+ slideshow).

Laguna Garzon Bridge was designed by Viñoly – a Uruguayan architect based in New York – to replace a raft crossing connecting the cities of Rocha and Maldonado.

Laguna Garzon Bridge by Rafael Vinoly

The concrete structure is raised above the water on cylindrical piles and provides a crossing for up to 1,000 vehicles each day. The road is bracketed by a pair of pedestrian walkways.

The ring-shaped structure frames a circle of water, creating a "lagoon inside a lagoon" where people can swim, fish or sightsee.

Rafael Viñoly explained: "The concept of the Puente Laguna Garzon was to transform a traditional vehicular crossing into an event that reduces the speed of the cars, to provide an opportunity to enjoy panoramic views to an amazing landscape, and at the same time create a pedestrian place in the centre."

Laguna Garzon Bridge by Rafael Vinoly

Viñoly is perhaps best known as the designer of London's Walkie Talkie building, which was nicknamed Walkie Scorchie after the glare from its curvy glass facade melted the bodywork of nearby cars.

The construction of the Laguna Garzon Bridge – which used over 450 tons of formed steel, 40,000 metres of post tensioned cables and 3,500 cubic metres of concrete – has also proved controversial, provoking protests from environmental groups.

Laguna Garzon Bridge by Rafael Vinoly

"The rotunda also signals the terminus of the National Route 10," said Viñoly.

"I accepted to design the bridge on the condition that Route 10 – a federal highway that has been the main access to the beach resorts along the Uruguayan coast and one of the most destructive planning drivers of the territory – be downgraded to local jurisdiction in order to better control the development process."

Laguna Garzon Bridge by Rafael Vinoly

The Laguna Garzon Bridge took 12 months to complete and opened in late 2015. It is located near popular resorts Punta del Este and José Ignacio – home to a new development of concrete holiday homes by Adamo-Faiden.

"It is an iconic architectural piece that will be a catalytic factor in driving the development of Rocha’s coastline," said Argentine developer Eduardo Costantini, who invested 80 per cent of the $10 million (£7 million) construction costs. Costantini is also behind the nearby Las Garzas development.

Rafael Viñoly Architects is currently working on a super-tall skyscraper in Manhattan scheduled for completion later this year and a pair of residential towers in Chicago.

Project credits:

Architecture: Rafael Viñoly
Construction: Saceem
Collaborators: MTOP, Las Garzas Blancas, Dirección Nacional de Vialidad, Uruguayan State

  • Robin

    What’s the point?

    • Guillermo

      I think that one of the points is that it caused many people to talk about it, and maybe attract some tourists or buyers for the nearby real estate projects. :)

  • The Liberty Disciple

    If you’re going to be excessive with a civil engineering project, this is how you do it. Making statements with expensive techniques that test unconventional construction and materials is offensive to those paying.

    Slowing cars down with a simple circle, and eliminating additional maintenance from road humps, while providing for a focal point is a smart design. I don’t usually praise public projects, but this one is well done.

    • ellieban

      Slowing cars down with a circle, yes, but the rest of it? Who on earth is going to take a stroll to the middle of that thing so as to stare down at water they can’t get to and across at another road?

      • The Liberty Disciple

        The railing is lower on the outside. In all fairness causeways and bridges are common places to fish from. This increases the allowable area to fish from, making it safer for all users of the bridge. If you do not want to walk through where people are fishing, use the higher fenced, inside of the circle.

  • Johan Perezco

    But this is so impractical. Why not just cross right? Says maybe some engineer.

  • Ben McGhee

    It is latest attempt to destroy cars… But seriously, this guy needs to stop getting commissions. All of his recent projects seem to miss compatibility with context and the laws of physics.

  • Jeroen van Lith


  • Thomas

    The whole circle part looks very unnecessary.

  • Davide


  • MB

    Intrusive and ugly. I spy a theme with Vinoly’s work.

  • samcooke6

    I have never seen a more pointless structure. Vinoly has got to be the most overrated designer. I cringe at all his ‘work’.

  • Kieran

    Why do I get the impression he’s just giving meaning to a shape he finds pretty?

  • Guest

    In Rafael Viñoly’s world this is an amazing landscape where drivers have to slow down to observe, whilst making sure their eyes never leave the road, of course.

  • David

    These people need to stop designing!

  • DomD

    Nothing better than spending some quality time inside a roundabout. All that lagoon needed was the smell of petrol and a busy road between ourselves.

  • Λαϊμπάρο

    But why?

  • Stephen

    The fact that none of the pictures are taken from ground level (the level it’ll actually be experienced from) says it all.

    The panoramic views Vinoly apparently loves are ruined by having to look at the other side of the bridge! Next time I want a great pedestrian viewing experience, I won’t be going to the centre of a roundabout…

    • Thomas

      Good points!

  • rodrigo

    All these commenters need to start reading the article before they start asking questions. I think this is brilliant. “Form follows experience”.

    • Gertrude

      I have read the article my friend. In my opinion it is all a waste of material and money in the middle of nowhere.

      • Guillermo

        This bridge connects nice towns in neighbouring counties. This is not the middle of nowhere. Many people go to that lagoon to practice sports like kite surfing and windsurfing. There were reportedly about 200 kite surfers there recently.

  • Kay

    This reminds me of the classic banana protector cover. Over-engineering defined. It’s things like that which give credence to many engineers’ frustration at dreamy architects.

  • Jack Twist

    First the death ray at the Walkie Talkie, and now this? Viñoly should stop his attempts to destroy cars.

  • Jeremy Kim


  • peter

    Anyone who has spent time in Uruguay will understand this whimsical bridge. It will become a hang out for fishermen and people in lawn chairs in no time.

  • CH

    I hesitate to mention Vinoly in the same breath as Zumthor but this project represents a concept completely dislocated from the project.

    Zumthor’s Serpentine pavilion was a space for ‘quiet contemplation’ yet was expected to receive hundreds of thousands of visitors. The place was packed, which was a mistake I think.

    The idea here is to slow traffic so you can appreciate the view? Why aren’t we shown this amazing viewing experience if it’s so good? Apart from the fact that he’s asking drivers to look around rather than drive? Oh, there are railings at eye level in a car.

    The circle will always be a strong, organising form, which looks great on plan but here it’s an empty arbitrary gesture which has used three times the resources for what appears to be a minimal gain, you want a 180-degree view? Turn your head Raphael and don’t fill the place with concrete.

    Another inelegant, architecturally suspect project by this somehow revered office. As many have said, why? That probably says it all.

  • Mr J

    Where is the car park and the decked seating area? And where are the bars and the cafes? If the point is to slow vehicles down and give people something to look at, then he has missed a golden opportunity to make his bridge a proper visitor centre.

  • Roger That

    Such a wasteful design. What did they do with the big disc they cut out of the centre?

  • Reynier Krause

    Amazing, my vote is with Viñoly. Well done.

  • Archi-Nerd

    Why only destroy a thin sliver of ecosystem when you can destroy a wide swath of it!

  • James

    People love to hate Viñoly but his recent projects are incredible. 432 Park Avenue in New York has to be one of the most successful skyscrapers built in a decade. And this bridge is a thing of poetic beauty!

    People will point out that some of his buildings have burnt people and objects, which is fair enough, but you shouldn’t be blind to excellence just because abysmal mistakes preceded it.

  • Pepijn Laforce

    You can’t even do a circle like on a real roundabout!