Case Studies

Zaha Hadid Architects: The Danjiang Bridge


The following article was originally published by Geoff Haines on the Desktop Engineering Blog and is reprinted with permission.

The Project

Located at the mouth of Tamsui River that flows through the capital Taipei, the Danjiang Bridge is integral to the infrastructure upgrading program of northern Taiwan. Commissioned through a competition by the Directorate General of Highways, Taiwan, R.O.C., the bridge will increase connectivity between neighbourhoods and reduce through-traffic on roads within local town centres.

By also reducing traffic from the congested Guandu Bridge upriver, the Danjiang Bridge will greatly improve the northern coast traffic system and enhance accessibility throughout the region with the rapidly expanding Port of Taipei/Taipei Harbour, the region’s busiest shipping port.

The Team

The winning design team comprised a joint venture collaboration between architects Zaha Hadid Architects based in London, acting as design consultants; lead structural engineer was Leonhardt, Andrä & Partner in Germany and Sinotech Engineering Consultants in Taiwan acting as local engineering consultants.

The Design

The winning cable-stayed bridge design minimises its visual impact by using only one concrete structural mast to support the 920m road, rail and pedestrian deck made from steel. The height of the supporting mast is 200m of structural reinforced concrete, with steel cables supporting steel road/rail/cycle/pedestrian decks. Spans either side of the mast are 450m to the West and 175m to the East.

When completed, the Danjiang Bridge will be the world’s longest single-mast asymmetrical cable-stay bridge in the world. It is a new piece of vital transport infrastructure which connects the two separate communities on either side of the isthmus of the Tamsui River in Taipei, greatly reducing travel time and enhancing to the region for people and goods, while achieving a harmonious integration with the natural landscape of the area.

The asymmetrical Danjiang Bridge design optimises the functionality of long-span bridge design while reducing construction and cost.

The Innovation on the Cloud

Given the project’s design complexity, scale, engineering challenges and geographic distance, the team elected to use CATIA on the cloud, powered by 3DEXPERIENCE platform from Dassault Systèmes, supplied and supported by Desktop Engineering Ltd, to implement the project. This cloud-based 3D design system provides a common 3D data platform for all parties between Europe and Asia and acts as the central data repository, or Common Data Environment in BIM terms, for the project.

Key elements of this On Cloud solution:

  • Immediate availability of a data management solution embedded within the software. Clearly, there was a need for user access management and revision control of design information across the collaborative partners.
  • The ability to perform concurrent collaborative design sessions acting upon the single 3D data model that is a core element of the application.
  • Available On Cloud anywhere with internet access meant that collaborators could engage with the design process anytime.
  • A data-driven architecture—meaning no use of files, drop boxes or emails to share information—with the information stored once in one place—a “single source of truth.”
  • It is a true real-time online collaboration platform where users can see others’ work immediately, and share design information in an organized, real-time approach. Everyone can get the information as needed from the cloud. This terminates the old issue of file upload/download and manually version management.

A key challenge that the team had to first address was to confirm their workflows and address the scale and level of detail that a 3D model of the bridge would carry. Zaha Hadid’s team, who were leading the design element of the project through previous experience with “conventional” file-based CATIA V5 software, specified key elements of this process. Further, they configured the 3D CATIA model structure to reflect the relevant roles each of contributor makes to the partnership.

Design information was authored directly on the CATIA system while engineering analysis and optimisation were achieved through cyclical data exchange with specialist engineering tools and custom-made scripts. The resulting Digital Mockup represented a true solid model representation of the design.

The Innovation in Process

A key element to the CATIA On Cloud solution is the ability to communicate change graphically and share this in real time. Late in the design process, the client requested the mast be raised in height by 25 metres. This change was initiated and given the parametric capabilities of the software, once this change was initiated and the model regenerated, a revised 3D design was completed within 30 minutes. Hence rapid change was cascaded through the stakeholders of the project through the sharing of a single model and the collaboration messaging service within the 3DEXPERIENCE platform communicated this change.

The 3DEXPERIENCE platform proved to be highly scalable, enabling the 3D project design information to scale up in detail and size without any loss of performance nor need to increase hardware resource. This proved to enhance the team’s ability to deliver information ahead of schedule.

The team were able to continuously coordinate the design data, checking on clashes in real time, which again speeded up the whole design process. The project achieved outstanding operational economics through a compact design team completing work with minimum delay in communication all enabled by the 3DEXPERIENCE integrated technology platform.

One of the downstream process innovations lies in using this integrated 3D design data as a central part of the tender process. Traditional government procurement in Taiwan is based on 2D drawing-based documentation, however, the Employer’s Requirements for an integrated contractor-led BIM process provides the opportunity to elevate the 3D CATIA data to form part of the base EPC contract tender documentation, thereby eliminating the need for costly and error-prone 3D model reconstruction from 2D drawings.


This project in one of the first major AEC projects on the CATIA 3DEXPERIENCE cloud platform. Although used in their more established industries, the new AEC specific design capabilities that Dassault Systemes have introduced were used to great effect. Further, the nature of internationally distributed design consultants that is a feature in major infrastructure projects, were well served by the real-time online collaboration features.

From the perspective of Zaha Hadid, their conclusion was that this project process resulted in a highly enhanced profit margin if compared to using a conventional process of a file-based approach—sharing and releasing information with email, Dropbox, or other file-based sharing portals.

This success has meant they have recently doubled their investment and commitment to CATIA 3DEXPERIENCE on the cloud and will look to use cloud-based technology on future suitable projects with a progressive phasing out of the previous technology. Further given the nature of Zaha Hadid’s work being 95% outside the UK and more than 75% outside Europe, cloud technology delivers clear improvements in speed of communication and 3D design collaboration.

Tweet: An analysis of #ZahaHadid Architects’ Danjiang Bridge project @Desktop_Eng @ZHA_News @3DSAEC

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