The New Bridges of Nijmegen
When I visited the Room for the River project in Nijmegen, a year ago, I decided I had to come back after completion of the work. And so it happened last week, a day with four seasons, which resulted in very photogenic weather.
Nijmegen now has a beautiful river park in the heart of the city. Although at some places it still looks a bit new and barren; grass, flowers and other vegetation are still working to recapture the areas around the newly created Spiegelwaal (Mirror Waal). Reason to schedule another visit for springtime 2017.
Five new bridges
What impressed me most were the bridges in and around the project area. For decades Nijmegen’s riverfront was dominated by two bridges: the Waal Bridge and the Railway Bridge. Now in just a few years time, five new bridges have been added.
And all those river crossings have been designed with care; it’s clear that no cheap and easy straight-to-the-point solutions were chosen. In that sense it’s a good case study for Rotterdam, where two new bridges are being planned: one between the neighbourhoods of Kralingen and Feyenoord and one between Delfshaven and Charlois.
The most westerly and the most prominent of the five is De Oversteek (The Crossing), completed in 2013 and built to a design by Belgian architect Chris Poulissen and Luxembourg engineer Laurent Ney. Steel and concrete as well as brick play an important role here. The single steel arch above the river makes a nice triptych with the existing bridges across the Waal. And above the floodplains and the new channel the bridge further graceful undulates with concrete arches, beautifully finished with brick.
The bridge is also a war memorial, commemorating the 48 American soldiers who died in 1944 during the crossing of the Waal on this spot. Every night at dusk 48 pairs of light are turned on one by one, from south to north, as seen in this beautiful short film:
A few hundred meters closer to the city is the Zaligebrug (the Blessed Bridge), a much simpler design by Next Architects. This graceful meandering footbridge enables a stroll along the Spiegelwaal and on the new island Veur-Lent. Well, at least when the water levels don’t get too high because in that case a part of the bridge temporarily disappears under water. And when the water is rising but is not too high yet, stepping stones provide an adventurous alternative.
In the time when I worked on the project, the bridge between Veur-Lent and the village of Lent was called Promenade Bridge but it has since been renamed Lentloper (untranslatable). The aforementioned duo Poulissen and Ney was responsible for this playful, one might even say frivolous design. A bridge designed to gaze dreamily over the water or to enjoy the last rays of sunshine with your loved one, rather than as the fastest connection between two points. The pedestrian level, a few meters below the narrow car lane, has two shortcuts where one can walk under the bridge.
The Extended Waal Bridge
The Extended Waal Bridge, which as far as I know doesn’t have a name of its own yet, is a design by Zwarts and Jansma. A relatively simple design was chosen in order not to compete with the Waal Bridge itself. Well, simple … the concrete structure supporting the road surface looks anything but simple. How beautifull concrete can be!
I conclude with a little bridge that you’d almost overlook among all those big guys but that also some iconic quality: the Ooypoort. This footbridge gives direct access from the city’s river front to the Ooijpolder, an area of exceptional scenic beauty. It’s a design by Olaf Gipser and is made of composite, or fiber reinforced synthetic material. Upon completion it was with 56 meters the largest span in this material in the world. When you cross it it moves a little bit below your feet; a fun, somewhat theatrical transition between city and nature.
Update June 23, 2017: an Encore
Over the past year, this blog post about the bridges became the most popular article on my blog. Perhaps I’ve had a bit of luck because of the publicity generated by the Giro d’Italia which started in Nijmegen a few days after my visit. To celebrate the success here are some pictures of the bridges I made during two later trips to the city on the Waal.
Blissful winter morning
On a beautiful Sunday morning in January I was in Nijmegen once again. It was only a short visit but long enough to make a stroll around Veur-Lent island, which was covered with a thin layer of snow. The Zaligebrug looked quite, well, blissfull.
Springtime at the Spiegelwaal
My next visit was a few months later, at the end of March. This time I had the opportunity to make some pictures around sunset. The light of the low sun made the elegant concrete forms of the Extended Waal Bridge look even better.
Once a year the sun shines precisely through the pedestrian crossings underneath the Lentloper. You could call it a Lenthenge.
Quiet on the beach
A little later, the sun has disappeared below the horizon. The sky behind The Crossing turns all shades of red. Soon the lanterns will go on one by one. On the beach along the Waal there is a serene silence.
The blue hour
The blue hour begins. The Lentloper is spectacularly illuminated from below; also in the railing there are lights. The stairs and slopes of the Lentse Warande on the other side, are accentuated with a few long lines of light.