Bridges Turnhoutsebaan, Wijnegem

The design for the replacement of the bridge at Wijnegem, Belgium, by architectural studio ZJA consists of two bridges, one for cars and one for cyclists and pedestrians. The car bridge, with its modest flat arch and V-shaped supports, integrates seamlessly into the landscape. The cycle bridge, by contrast, is long and elegant, with a sharply cut steel structure that provides a magnificent view of the surroundings.

A car bridge and a cycle bridge

Because of the limited amount of free space between the canal and the buildings on either side, the decision was made to create an entirely new situation, with two bridges. One is a car bridge, which crosses the canal ahead of the locks. The bridge for cyclists and pedestrians is a good distance away, with one of its supports resting on an extension of the lock complex.

Modest car bridge with flat arch

The car bridge, with its flat arch and V-shaped supports, spans a distance of 88 metres and integrates seamlessly into the landscape. It is a slim and modest bridge, designed to minimize any obstruction to the view of the surroundings. To achieve this, the supports are designed in the shape of a V, which gives optimal openness. There is space for cycle paths and a road along the canal. The approaches are laid on a stepped structure of gabions filled with cobblestones. The horizontal parts of the steps are planted up, creating a friendly transition to the rural surroundings.

The new car bridge is carefully designed to reduce the impact of traffic in the direct vicinity. Cars need to be able to pass and cross the canal smoothly, while the bridge must encumber the residential environment of Wijnegem as little as possible both spatially and visually. This determined the position of the bridge and the placement of the abutments. On the south side the choice was made to have the approach line up with the walls of the buildings to minimize disruption, while on the north side a short and direct connection with the road was achieved. The approaches are placed symmetrically, to keep the landscape clear and easy to read.

Long and graceful cycle bridge

The cycle bridge over the Albert Canal is long and elegant, and it attracts attention from a distance. After a long access ramp that is largely freestanding, on V-shaped columns, the sharply cut steel bridge begins its crossing. There is a support point on an extension of the lock complex, after which the white, asymmetrical cable-stayed bridge majestically crosses the canal. On the other side the abutment is a long way from the canal, leaving room for a possible widening of the lock complex in the future. At 175 metres in length, the slim and proud bridge provides a splendid view of the surroundings and of activities in the locks. Comfortable steps, and highly transparent railings and balustrades complement a connection that is not just functional but a visual asset to the area.

The open and light structure of the bridge creates new public space alongside the canal, while its position as far to the west as possible means that the centre of Wijnegem acquires a water plaza that provides a quiet, well-organized environment in the midst of busy traffic on both land and water.

Graffiti and lighting

The removal of the old heavy concrete bridge also presents an opportunity to transform the dark underworld of the quayside into a lighter, more open and greener environment. An extensive collection of graffiti disappears along with the old bridge. On the Wijnegem side, space has been created for local graffiti artists on the abutment of the new cycle bridge.

In the design of the lighting for the bridge deck, careful attention has been paid to avoiding light pollution, both for shipping and for local residents. For that reason, and to avoid the intrusion of visually disturbing lampposts, the streetlighting is hung low. A carefully considered lighting plan means that after sunset the light and elegant shape of the bridge truly comes into its own. The plan makes use of direct lighting in the railings and indirect lighting from the underside of the deck, reinforcing the floating character of the bridge and creating a beautiful atmosphere.

Architect: ZJA
Principal client: De Vlaamse Waterweg
Client: THV Arcadis-Sweco
Year: 2017 - present

Project: #1089



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