The Zalige Bridge

Stepping over Flood

The Zalige Bridge provides a special connection between the northern bank of the Waal in Nijmegen and the island of Veur-Lent. The sober concrete construction transitions in a playful way into a path structure through the river, without starting and ending points. The connection represents the fluctuation of the water level in relation to nature and the building; at high water, the construction will partially disappear under water. Due to the exciting walking route, the bridge is not part of the journey, but also of the destination itself.
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Michel Schreinemachers, Marijn Schenk, Bart Reuser with Jurriaan Hillerström, Luuc Sonke, Maarten Vermeulen, Ingeborg Kuijlaars

Witteveen + Bos / IBA

City to City Barcelona FAD Award 2018 / Nominee
Nijmegen Architecture Prize 2018 / Nominee
Dutch Design Awards 2018 / Winner
Dutch Construction Prize 2017 / Winner
NRP Gulden Feniks Award 2017 / Winner
European Prize for Architecture Philippe Rotthier 2017 / Honourable Mention

Jeroen Bosch, Jennie Burgers, Rutger Hollander and Jan Daanen

Exploring High Water

Global climate change and urbanization bring new challenges. More and more rivers that cross the Netherlands show peaks in their water levels and the rising water level increases risk of flooding. To rearrange the floodplains and make room for the amount of water, the national ‘Room for the River’ project has been started, which also includes the ‘Room for the Waal’ project. The Zalige Bridge is part of this program and symbolizes the new awareness that is necessary in times of climate change.

The bridge connects the island of Veur-Lent with the northern bank of the Waal after the dyke relocation was completed. The 200-metre-long connection is designed as part of the path structure in the floodplain – a bridge without a starting and ending point. At high water, part of the bridge disappears under water and the bank on the other side can only be reached via stepping stones. At times of low water, the function and meaning of these elements changes and the blocks form seating elements for the passing cyclists and walkers. This experience makes the dynamics of the river visible and perceptible and reflects the direct consequences of the rising water levels on the environment. At the same time, the bridge is part of the solution to this problem. This gives the Zalige bridge a hybrid form: the bridge stands above nature, but at the same time it is part of nature and the environment.

Connecting Stepping Stones

The design of the Zaligebrug focused on the integration with the landscape and the recreational value in the river park. The winding shape ensures an organic connection to the path structure and makes the bridge a natural part of the walking route. Because the bridge is gradually being lifted onto the land, the transition from the artwork to the adjacent ground level is seamless.

The meandering shape of the bridge offers a constant change of perspective from the bridge onto the surroundings. The experience of the water in the river park is intensified when crossing the Waal bank. When the water level fluctuates strongly, the environment and the shape of the bridge changes continuously. This makes the dynamics of the landscape clearly visible. At high water the stepping stones form a walking route to the bridge, so that the flowing water between the concrete planks can be experienced up close. By making the water and the environment liveable, the bridge not only becomes the route to the island, it is part of the destination.

Creating A Unique Journey

Natural materials and robust detailing match the identity of the location and the strength of the water to which the bridge is subject. Due to the adhesion of dirt and silt, the Zalige Bridge will more and more become a natural part of the landscape. The construction of the land bridge is therefore sober. The total span is divided into seven equal areas by six open concrete pillars. The main supporting structure consists of two double curved concrete girders with the bridge deck on top. The fencing is open and transparent, so that the bridge deck remains the image carrier of the bridge. To continue the path, a total of 72 stepping stones have been placed, with open joints in between. These joints play an important role in the image and experience of the bridge: they enhance the legibility of the loose plank elements and provide a subtle relationship with the flowing water.

In January 2018 the Zalige bridge proved itself for the first time. Water levels rose to 12 m NAP+: the highest point in 15 years. This time however, the high water became an attraction. While the water was rising, the bridge was reachable only through stepping stones, becoming the ultimate place to experience the high water. Eventually, also the stepping stones submerged, making the bridge inaccessible. As a crest above the river, the bridge emphasizes the dynamic character of water by letting people see and experience the changing river landscape.

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