Crossing with Winged Steps A bridge is a bridge is a bridge. Marte Marte Architects are always finding new ways to break the spanning of rivers down to the basics; the essence is drawn from the context and the desire to combine beauty with function. The Birkenwiese Bridge adds another valuable element to the infrastructure of the City of Dornbirn that blends in with the surroundings and allows pedestrians and cyclists to cross the river fleet of foot and with a spring in their step.
It’s all about location, location, location The Dornbirner Ach River runs along the edge of the downtown and thus forms the line where the city centre intersects with the outlying districts. The river bed and the riverside paths transform both sides into a local recreational area: within the city, the rocky banks that keep nature in check are perfect for fishing, bathing or spending time alone or with friends and the alluvial forest that lines the river the farther you get from town creates an atmosphere of peace and relaxation. Near Birkenwiese, the Ach is nestled idyllically into its surroundings, the shrub-lined embankments protect the river basin against even a 100-year flood, and the interaction of flowing water and broken gravel forms constantly changing gravel riverbanks. On the one side, there is a neighbourhood of single-family homes, and on the other, a multifunctional mixed-use area. Directly in front of the south end of the cycle and pedestrian bridge is the new Birkenwiese retirement home with its whitewashed bricks and the rust-red varnished wood windows. The design of the bridge takes its inspiration from the nature around it and thus integrates the structure into the surrounding area.
Lightness of being Marte Marte have made a virtue out of the adverse conditions of the site. Since the flanks of the Ach are not very high at this point, the static height of the bridge had to be kept low. Thus, a hollow box girder made of Corten steel spans the shallow riverbed and is anchored in the reinforced concrete abutments, elegantly tapering toward the middle of the longitudinal sides. The concrete structures of the abutments are minimal and concise and form an almost natural border on the path that runs along the Ach. The massive bridge gets its sense of lightness from its simplicity, gestural quality and choice of materials. The wide cycle and pedestrian path, with a bright red and quartz sand-covered surface, bends, slightly offset, in the middle on each side towards the bank and thus makes it easier for cyclists to intersect with the regional cycling path in both directions. The deck of the bridge is lined on both sides by a slender picket railing of square bars in a diamond pattern that offers a spectacular view of the surrounding area and invites those crossing to cast a curious glance to the left and to the right. The pedestrians, cyclists and locals sitting along the neighbouring banks paint a relaxing, almost lively scene on this bright blue summer day, as the people move without effort or collision across the rust-red catwalk of daily life that connects them with flora, fauna, earth, water and sky. It’s not every bridge that can put a smile on the face of passers-by, and that’s thanks to its casual yet inspired combination of beauty and function.