Architects: DVVD / Daniel Vaniche, Vincent Dominguez, Bertrand Potel Location: Meaux, France Engineers: DVVD Landscape Architects: Mutabilis Client: City of Meaux Builders: Brisard Dampierre (framework) / Demathieu & Bard (concrete building) Construction Year: 2010-2011 Photographs & Images: Courtesy of DVVD
Site – Context
The footbridge links the centre of Meaux, more particularly the station, to Grand Ile, a mediaeval district located within a bend of the Marne. The decision to locate the bridge on the bend of the river allows it to provide a greater number of views, and increases the ways in which the structure can interact with its environment.
The location features a high degree of urban development as well as landscaping, with new buildings, a pedestrian thoroughfare and views of the Cathedral on one side, and the weir on the other.
We took account of every aspect of these urban and landscaping elements when locating the footbridge, which runs alongside the park and riverbank on the town centre side before rising and crossing the Marne and joining the other bank, arriving perpendicular to the Place de Fleurus. The location makes sense in terms of place, and also encourages pedestrian itineraries.
The route will certainly provide an alternative link between the two districts, deliberately cut off from vehicle traffic and encouraging the use of green transport, as well as offering both landscaping and environmental benefits.
Despite the complex considerations relating to clearance for river traffic, the footbridge offers access for bikes and wheelchair users. This involves a combination of thoroughfare, urban planning, architecture and technique. The needs in terms of height clearance for the river and a gentle incline resulted in an extremely slim, light structure; at the same time, a minimum thickness is required. This apparent contradiction was resolved by providing the gentle gradient on only half of the structure, with the other, larger half becoming a bench which also conceals the footbridge’s load-bearing structure.
In addition to providing a crossing point, the project also opens up new views over the town, particularly the cathedral. Its function as a form of balcony is reflected in the materials used, the differing surface levels – which serve as a bench facing the cathedral – and the gentle lighting so as not to dazzle strollers.
The footbridge forms an integral part of the urban development of Meaux. It is destined to become a consistent, integrated part of the existing network of thoroughfares, whilst being sufficiently distinctive: its function is as natural (and its use as logical) as that of a pavement.
The central section of the footbridge is supported by stairs linking it to the bank, aligned with the cathedral.
The innovative and contemporary steel structure of the deck rests on piles built into the banks, with no support in the river itself. This provides discreet, lightweight support for the timber and resin span and represents an asset in the event of flooding.
As already mentioned, the need to have a load-bearing steel beam with a height of 80 cm led us to design a footbridge with two levels of traffic: the first, lower section is accessible to wheelchair users, while the second, which conceals the load-bearing structure, stands 40 cm higher, creating a form of bench for the whole length of the bridge.
During the design of the footbridge, there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between sketch plans and technical feasibility and between concepts and constraints. All this has had an impact on the final result in terms of its principle, its proportions, its span and its height.
The unbroken route from one bank to the other is reinforced by the use of asphalt and timber surfacing on the access at each end as well as on the footbridge itself. Asphalt is hard-wearing and non-slip, and also provides continuity with other thoroughfare surfacing. The wood used for the decking is rot-proof, grooved and benefits from an aluminium oxide finish.
Another important aspect of the footbridge environment is its balustrading. Using an extremely lightweight stretched mesh creates an atmosphere more akin to the bridge of a ship than to a traditional footbridge.
Compact vandal-proof units embedded beneath the handrails provide lighting which is clear but not blinding.