In a country famous for its below sea level towns, combating flooding has been a key challenge for Dutch designers for centuries, resulting in the construction of numerous dikes, levees and seawalls across the country. But when tasked with creating a new pedestrian link across an urban river park in Nijmegen, NEXT Architects and H+N+S Landscape Architects decided to try a different approach: to celebrate the natural event by designing a stepping stone bridge that only becomes useful in high water conditions.
Known as the Zalige Bridge, the structure was completed in March 2016, but only just was given the opportunity to prove itself in January 2018, when water levels in the park rose to 12 m NAP+, the highest point in 15 years.
The bridge acts as an extension of an elevated pathway that takes visitors across the river and floodplains. During dry times, a ground level pathway lined with concrete benches provides access to the raised structure. But as water levels begin to rise, this path is submerged, and the benches become the new ‘stepping stones’ that allow visitors to cross.
By limiting access, the architects believe the presence of the water is celebrated in a poetic way.
“While the water was rising, the bridge was reachable only through stepping stones, becoming the ultimate place to experience the high water,” explain the architects. “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.”
“All designs by NEXT architects start from the unique characteristics of a place. This bridge is built on the floodplains; this fact was used to design a bridge that strongly connects and interacts with the river landscape; as a path over the water,” explains Michel Schreinemachers, partner NEXT architects. "It makes people experience of the changing water levels.”
News via NEXT Architects