Town bridge, Kampen


New bridge in an old town

Between the historic centre of Kampen and its station square lies the River IJssel. The bridge connecting the two parts of the town is not just an important link but a vital feature of the town centre. When the old structure needed to be replaced, architectural studio ZJA was commissioned to design a new bridge. The question was how to come up with a contemporary design that would be in keeping with the historical townscape, protected as a heritage site, while also adding something of value.

The first decision was to put the new bridge in the same place, thereby fitting it into the mediaeval street pattern. This meant that during building work a temporary crossing would have to be provided, but it also ensured that the new bridge, which is twice as wide as the original, would be in keeping with the historical waterfront. The second design decision was to double the breadth of the shipping channel to thirty metres. Because the IJssel will need extra space in the future, partly in view of climate change, the old heavy pillars and abutments were replaced with slender columns. This improves the flow of the water.

Towers with gold wheels

What is both most functional and best suited to such a position? A drawbridge? A swing bridge or a cable-stayed bridge? The decision was made to create a lift bridge, resting on four central supports between which the deck can be lifted. Aside from the fact that this would create a stately, historically authentic impression, it offered an opportunity to keep the required machinery out of the water, which helps to limit surge at times of high water. The four lifting towers are steel columns filled with concrete. They are slim and bend towards each other slightly. At the top they are crowned by pulley wheels, with cables running over them for the counterweight. To help ensure the bridge fits in with the historical, landmark setting, the wheels are not covered but left visible. Furthermore, they are gold plated, so they reflect the light falling from above and bouncing off the surface of the water. These are strong but elegant mechanical elements that, with a certain panache, demonstrate to the world the forces at play. Like the gold weathercocks and ornaments on Kampen’s many church towers, they draw the eye of residents and visitors from a long distance. And not just in daytime, since after sunset the lifting towers are illuminated according to a sophisticated lighting plan. This design delivers a bridge that is both functional and visually attractive, contemporary yet also historically authentic. It is an important addition to the look of Kampen town centre.

Slow traffic and the view

As well as the concrete deck with lanes for cars and separate bicycle paths, lower pedestrian walkways have been added on both sides. Between them and the roadway is a glass windbreak. The low footpaths hang from steel structures on the outside of the bridge, giving pedestrians a beautiful view of the river, the ships, the town and the surrounding landscape. In the middle of the bridge, on top of the mooring dolphins and the wooden planks that protect the towers from collision by shipping, balconies have been added that give a sensation of floating just above the river, close to its immense and volatile power. Flowing curves in the balustrade enclose a wooden bench and a table. These are new places to linger for a while and enjoy a view of the town, the sight of shipping as it comes and goes, and the light playing on the proud towers with their gold wheels.

Winner: National Painter Prize 2000, Environmental Architecture Award 2000
Nomination: Dutch Steel Award 2000

Architect: ZJA
Commissioned by: Kampen Town Council
Year: 1999

Project: #93






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