A bottleneck

Just south of the city centre of the old city of Brugge, near Steenbrugge, lays a classic green drawbridge that allows traffic to cross the Gent-Brugge Canal. This confluence of waterway and asphalt has become a bottleneck for car and bicycle traffic alike, also causing inconvenience for inland shipping and neighbouring residents. There are traffic jams nearly all day long as the bridge has to be opened for every passing ship.

The region Brugge is one of the many areas in Flanders where waterways, bridges and locks are being renovated to assure that the economically vital connection between the rivers Schelde and Seine meets the requirements of contemporary shipping. At Steenbrugge this means the widening of the canal and the replacement of the low old drawbridge.

Large and new

At present the old bridge with its picturesque silhouette and green paint blends into the treeline east of the canal. A fine image, but the traffic jams severely compromise the quality of living and the experience of the open and green landscape. The design by ZJA responding to this consists of a spacious bridge for cars with bicycle paths on both sides, that swerves across the canal in a long and gentle curve.

This bridge stands 15 meters tall and remarkably rests on only a few columns, that are relatively modest too. This is made possible by the four slender cable constructions on top of the bridge that lift  the slim deck up. It makes the bridge slimmer in appearance and allows for much more light to play around and under it. After construction of this bridge the houses along the canal will be in the middle of a zone with hardly any passing cars, with traffic reduced to only passing cyclists and destination traffic.

Under the long deck of the bridge architects ZJA designed parking lots and playgrounds. With the heavy traffic gone, the banks of the canal are inviting people to go for a stroll. The shape of the deck, the use of bricks in the abutments and natural stone around the parking lots, combined with the light colours and accents produce a bright and attractive space under and around the bridge. A small oasis of urban quiet. The ships pass by, the traffic is no longer congested and the residents and cyclists experience more quietness and space. The intervention is considerable, but the gains are substantial.

A separate bicycle bridge

Commuting to school or work many cyclists may want to use the new car bridge, with its shallow climb to fifteen meters and a magnificent view. But on a beautiful day, out on an extensive bicycle tour one may prefer the new bicycle bridge just north of the car bridge. In a gesture to preserve some of the local history this steel bridge is painted in the same colour as the old steel drawbridge. It is located among lawns, paths, a small beach and moorings to create a rural atmosphere. This bicycle bridge offers a grand connection for cyclists between the city and the countryside to the east.

Client: De Vlaamse Waterweg nv, Agentschap Wegen en Verkeer & stad Brugge
Principal: TV Stadsvaart (Sweco Belgium + SBE)
Year: 2018 - present