During construction of Pelican Hill’s golf courses a decade ago, the designers and architects working on the project faced a dilemma: How would golfers in their golf cars safely cross the wide road between the golf shop and the courses?
The potential conflict between the golf cars and the cars coming into the Resort was clear, says architect Brad Neal, the recently retired Vice President of Architecture for The Irvine Company®. The obvious and typical solution would be to build a small, narrow bridge over the road for the golf cars.
But Pelican Hill’s architects saw the chance to do something grander, something with both function and style, and it quickly became obvious that what appeared to be a problem was actually an opportunity.
“At that point, we didn’t have a clear entry monument to the Resort,” Neal says. “So we decided to take full advantage of the situation and create a gateway that would play both roles.”
The result was the now-famous bridge that marks the entrance to the Resort off Newport Coast Drive. The towering structure, meant to resemble ancient Roman aqueducts such as Pont du Gard in southern France, features soaring arches and stands at 40 feet tall, as high as some four-story buildings.
The bridge opened with the golf courses in 2007, and to this day, serves a dual purpose: It allows the golfers who drive their golf cars atop it a direct route to the course, and provides visitors the first glimpse of the Palladian-style architecture that characterizes the Resort.
In fact, the bridge epitomizes the style of Andrea Palladio, the Renaissance-era Italian architect whose churches, villas and palaces provided the main inspiration for The Resort at Pelican Hill.® Like Palladio’s work, it evokes classical Roman and Greek architectural principles, and is beautiful and practical at the same time.
For the most part, the construction of the bridge went smoothly, Neal says, but there was one issue with the final stages. Before sandstone was added to the bases of the bridge to give it an antique look, the surface was finished in Italian plaster but the weather wasn’t cooperating.
“Rain had created a challenge in ensuring that the plaster wasn’t mottled looking,” Neal says. “We decided to do the plaster again so the surface was consistent and the craftsmanship was just as intended and designed.”
The effort paid off, since not only do golfers have a bridge that allows them an outstanding view of the Pacific Ocean as they drive to the first tee, but they also get a taste of the grand architecture of the Resort when they first enter. “It started out as a functional challenge,” Neal says. “And now it has become iconic.”