For the first time in history, two cities will be connected across national borders by cable car.

Blagoveshchensk in Russia and Heihe in China are hotly anticipating the two-line, river-spanning cable car system, which will be able to carry 60 passengers, and their luggage, in each car.

Set to open in 2022, the new cable car route will promise journey times of just seven and a half minutes between the two countries.

Steel will be a key part of the experience, particularly for helping meet the demands of the terminals at either end of the line. Millions of people must be able to flow through each terminal safely and in a timely fashion, while factoring in security checks.

Dutch architectural practice UNStudio, who designed the Russian terminal, says its building is an expression of the important and historic connection between the two cities.

Exterior terraces will offer stunning views of the Amur River, with platforms rising from the riverfront landscape – the perfect place to greet arrivals or wave goodbye.

“The versatile properties of steel were an important metric in the construction methodology.” – Ben van Berkel, UNStudio Founder

As passengers move through the building, they will encounter spectacular views that have been specially framed by the design of the terminal. The floorplates twist to reinforce these visual connections, with the elevated viewing platforms cantilevering over the green plateaus below.

Meanwhile, the people of Blagoveshchensk will be able to access a restaurant at the top of the building, as well as a conference centre and a roof garden.


Powered by steel

Ben van Berkel, founder of UNStudio, says steel was an obvious choice for the step cantilevers due to its unmatched strength-to-weight ratio.

“The team agreed that steel construction was the optimal way to achieve the slenderness of the floating edges, which extend outwards almost 10 metres from the primary structure,” he says.

“Alternative systems simply could not achieve the generous cascading cantilevers. In order to highlight the effect of the floating edges, the steel beams are profiled to reduce their visual bulk. These modules can be shop-fabricated to assist with the speed of installation on site.”


Artist's rendition of Blagoveshchenks cab
Each cable car will be able to hold 60 passengers and their luggage


Natural circulation

As passengers will be crossing borders, the cable car terminal will have strict security requirements similar to an airport. It will be divided into high and low risk zones, including security checkpoints and areas where passengers and staff have different levels of access.

The building must account for all this and, at the same time, allow a single connected circulation path, ensuring a continuous and smooth flow of passengers towards the departure platforms.

Slender steel columns were a key part of the solution, allowing the designers to optimise floor space and create more open-span areas.

“The versatile properties of steel were an important metric in the construction methodology,” says van Berkel.

This could be the start of a bright new era in public transport, powered by steel. UNStudio are already working on new cable car systems in Gothenburg and Amsterdam that are not only sustainable, but also efficient and safe.

Van Berkel adds: “Cable cars are a very congenial way to travel as they enable us to see and experience our cities in a whole new way.”


Images: UNStudio
Video: News Direct