arenas asociados reconstructs historic fort st. elmo footbridge in malta
arenas asociados reconstructs historic fort st. elmo footbridge in malta arenas asociados reconstructs historic fort st. elmo footbridge in malta
may 19, 2014

arenas asociados reconstructs historic fort st. elmo footbridge in malta

arenas asociados reconstructs historic fort st. elmo footbridge in malta
image © samantha debono
all images courtesy of arenas & asociados




positioned in the valletta grand harbour in malta, a UNESCO world heritage site, the footbridge by spanish designers arenas & asociados spans the historic stretch st. elmo breakwater. the project is a reconstruction of the original, which was erected between 1903 and 1909 and destroyed during WWII in 1941. the breakwater and its lighthouse remained isolated for more than 70 years, only accessible by boat.


the rebuild has been conceived not only as a place to cross and stay, but also a place to admire the view over the grand harbor. its main structural element is a single 70-m-span classic arched steel truss (with similar height to span ratio to those pertaining to the original bridge) aligned along the outer face of the breakwater.


footbridge during a wavy day
image © antonio violi



the deck cantilevers out from its bottom chord, and the transverse section forms an l-shape, reinforcing the presence of protection walls on the open sea side of the abutments and their absence on the harbor side. the timber deck appears as a continuous unobstructed observation platform facing the ocean, while the truss provides protection from the wind to pedestrians. the asymmetrical section also ensures that the bridge is distinct from the remaining standing pier of the original structure.

view of the footbridge from sea with fort st. elmo in the background
image © héctor beade



linear LED floodlights recessed into the handrails or in the steelwork were used for all the required lighting systems. the footbridge was erected using a specialized heavy lift cargo vessel with cranes on deck in a similar way as the original one was. the steelwork was manufactured in a coruña and then assembled in the port of cartagena, and finally transported to malta by sea.

fort st. elmo, footbridge, breakwater and lighthouse
image © joseph lanzon


observatory towards the grand harbor and protection element from open sea 
image © chris mallia


windows to open sea and details of the steelwork 
image © héctor beade


one of the color combinations of the architectural lighting 
image © joseph lanzon


‘st elmo’s bridge – the fabrication process 2011 08 08’
video courtesy of vassallo group malta


installation of the bridge atop the abutments from sea using the vessel derricks
image © héctor beade


relation of the new bridge with the existing abutments (top) and footbridge-observatory concept (bottom) sketches: héctor beade


basis of design of the new footbridge
image © arenas & asociados


isometric views of the steelwork
drawing © arenas & asociados


construction and destruction sequence of the original footbridge



project info:


location: st. elmo breakwater at valletta grand harbour. valletta, malta
conceptual, structural and detailed design: arenas & asociados (héctor beade, guillermo capellán)
client: transport malta
local engineering: bezzina & cole
contractor: vassallo builders
steelwork: emesa / heavy lifting: fagioli / lighting: arenas & asociados (design), targetti, osram (supplier), calleja (installer)
total length: 72 m / span: 70 m / effective width: 5.5 m / vertical clearance under deck: 9.5 m
design and construction cost: 2 500 000 € (10-year maintenance included)
year: 2012



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.

  • ah yes… colored lights, of COURSE, colored lights

    dbkii says:
  • i like it. Thank you

    Ilya Bourim says:
  • Really a lovely project. I particularly enjoyed seeing the original photos from its construction. Congratulations.

    Ron Smith says:

have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.
all comments are reviewed for the purposes of moderation before publishing.

comments policy
designboom's comment policy guidelines
generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

- please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
- please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
- please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
- please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
- please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
(there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
the best 100-200 entries too.)

a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

architecture news

keep up with our daily and weekly stories
502,536 subscribers
- see sample
- see sample