Innovative Infrastructure Brings Neighborhoods Together

Freeways crisscross much of a modern society’s landscape, connecting distant cities by allowing people the ability to travel hundreds of miles in a single day. Unfortunately, they also cleave, destroy, and pollute neighborhoods while existing as a visual blight on the landscape. Communities and citizens will often resist their construction even when the economic benefits are made clear. The architects of Denmark-based BIG, always with a talent for the grandiose, have developed the winning concept for a highway interchange in Stockholm that delivers all the benefits of freeways without many of the “necessary” evils.

Energy Valley Highway Design by BIG

Called Energy Valley, this concept seeks to actually connect neighborhoods with their natural surroundings and each other. Where most multi-highways junctions create an insurmountable vehicular barricade and vast areas of unusable grass, BIG’s idea links divergent natural parks with an incorporated planned park and encourages an increased sense of community. Elevated roadways and a central traffic loop combined with meandering bicycle and pedestrian paths allow wildlife and long-separated neighborhoods the opportunity to grow together.

Energy Valley Highway Design by BIG

Builders will take excavated soil and use it to elevate the land that circles the interchange, creating the “valley” part of Energy Valley. Combined with the vegetation of this “parkway” interchange, the surrounding raised land has the benefits of removing the interchange from the view of surrounding communities, vastly reducing the noise pollution usually inherent with such features, and further increasing the park-like feel for the motorist, bicyclists, and pedestrians using the freeways and pathways to travel.

BIG has also designed an incredibly unique feature that will, for the first time, make a highway interchange a destination spot. Reminiscent of an image from a Vernor Vinge novel, the plan involves floating a gigantic mirrored sphere over the central roadway loop, reflecting the interchange’s surroundings. Besides stabilizing the sphere, thin rigid trusses using wave-power technology will combine with almost 31,000 square feet of solar cells on the surface to provide enough energy for keeping the air-filled feature aloft yet still delivering power to over two-hundred homes. The inconspicuous supports will ensure the sphere doesn’t contact the roadway in case of accidental deflation and also present an airy illusion of the sphere simply floating above the interchange.

Energy Valley Central Sphere

Most roadways exist outside of communities, benefiting the people passing through instead of those who share its settings. BIG has turned a three-level highway interchange into a feature for the community. “The Energy Valley is a cross-over between urbanism, landscape, architecture, art and infrastructure into a new neighborhood of Stockholm. Harnessing the momentum of the massive investment in tunnels and highways and putting the excess excavation to use as a man-made valley, we create an interdisciplinary hybrid of logistic, economic, environmental and social infrastructure,” states BIG Partner and Founder, Bjarke Ingels. They have truly flipped conventional thinking, drastically reducing the negative impacts of highways, improving the lives of the surrounding populace, and still maintaining the function of providing efficient transportation.

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