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Double nomination for Benelux Steel Bridge Contest: Theunis Bridge and Tessenderlo Cycle Bridge

Not one but two bridges designed by ZJA have been nominated for the Benelux Steel Bridge Contest, the Theunis Bridge at Merksem in the Traffic and Railway category, and the Tessenderlo bicycle bridge in the category Cycle and Pedestrian Bridges.

Honored with both nominations

Ralph Kieft, architect-partner at ZJA, says, "This double nomination represents an important recognition of our architectonic design of both the cycle bridge in Tessenderlo and the Theunis Bridge in Merksem. Both designs combine functionality and aesthetics in a way all their own, transforming the crossing of the Albert Canal into a spatial and visual experience and giving a qualitative boost to the surroundings. Many thanks to the Vlaamse Waterweg, which commissioned the projects and fully supported our quest for perfection. We are extremely honoured by both nominations.”

Functional preconditions and a refined aesthetic combined

In the industrial surroundings of Merksem, the dynamic silhouette of the Theunis Bridge stands out immediately, with its dark pillars, the dazzling white towers that have an open structure and its meticulous detailing. The steel bridge in three parts takes cyclists, cars and trams pleasantly and safely to the other side as if along a boulevard. The open design ensures that cyclists and pedestrians have a stunning view, and daylight penetrates to deep under the bridge. The canal banks have undergone a metamorphosis as well, resulting in a safe and enjoyable urban place to be.

Visual play with structural elements

In Tessenderlo too, form and function are harmoniously combined. A majestic arch not only provides a comfortable crossing but invites cyclists and pedestrians to enjoy a spatial and visual experience. The slim deck is made of box steel finished off with a thin layer of concrete. 

By forming an ingenious network, the slender arch with its relatively thin hangers, each attached to the structure at a different angle, are sufficient to support the bridge. As well as being strong and elegant, the structure delivers an animated visual effect as you cross.

Two bridges over the modernized Albert Canal

The design of both bridges was prompted by the modernization of the Albert Canal. To make the most important waterway in Flanders accessible for ships carrying containers stacked four high, it is being widened to 86 metres and its vertical clearance increased. This will benefit water transport and considerably reduce the number of heavy goods vehicles on the roads. In line with the masterplan ‘Horizon 2020’, all bridges must have free clearance of 9.10 metres, including the Theunis Bridge at Merksem and the cycle bridge in Tessenderlo.

Announcement of winners of the Benelux Steel Bridge Contest

The winners of the Benelux Steel Bridge Contest will be announced on 27 February, in the Havenhuis in Antwerp

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