An additional bicycle bridge
Cutting through the Flemish landscape near Beringen, just outside the city of Hasselt, the Albert Canal passes the town of Tessenderlo. The canal connects Liège and the eastern part of the country to the port of Antwerp, and is being adapted to the larger sizes and measures of contemporary inland shipping as part of a vast project. This not only leads to the enlargement of locks, but also to new and much higher bridges, to accommodate the new clearing height of 9.10 meter.
Along the canal a series of new bridges will be built, designed by Laurent Ney and consisting of two arches leaning against each other. At Tessenderlo the architectural studio ZJA was asked to design an additional bicycle bridge over the Albert Canal.
A smart single arch
ZJA’s design for the bicycle bridge at Tessenderlo follows the choice for a characteristic and elegant bridge that is recognizable as a member of the family of bridges along the Albert Canal. That is why it has an arch, but a single one, along the middle axis of the bridge, with the cyclists passing the arch on both sides.
The leap across the canal is long and spacious, a good 140 meters and the arch reaches up to 20 meters high. The deck of the bridge is slim, made of steel with a thin layer of concrete. With its 9 meters in width it is a majestic bicycle bridge. A keen observer might wonder how the bridge can be kept upright with the relatively narrow hangers and the slender arch. What makes this possible is the clever network of hangers that are all mounted to the construction at different angles. This allows the bridge to be strong and elegant with the irregularity offering a lively visual effect while passing by.
Half a minute
The land abutments of the bicycle bridge at Tessenderlo are broad and offer easy stairways with special guiding gutters for bicycles, making it easier for cyclists to mount the bridge from the side or descend from it to cycle along the canal. The abutments with their subtle receding lines in a sense frame the bridge in the vast open space of the landscape. They emphasize the lightness of the bridge and with their light colors merge with its clear silhouette. The bicycle bridge is there to offer a crossing over the Albert Canal that is as functional and comfortable as possible, but it also turns the passage into a remarkable spatial and visual experience. The bridge offers a stage for the experience of light, water, ships, view and movement and does so by its transparent and light construction, the view over the canal and the visual play with the irregular constructive elements. During the half a minute that it takes to cross the bridge by bicycle your eye might be caught by the railing, with its narrow steel rods and wooden ledges, reminding you of a ship. A rhyme with the ship on its way to Antwerp, passing by nine meters below you.
Nomination: Benelux Steel Bridge Contest 2023
Client: De Vlaamse Waterweg n.v.
Principal: THV Artes Roegiers
Consultants: Arcadis and Sweco
Steel contractor: Victor Buyck
Landscape architect: THV Cluster Landscape Architects - Robbert de Koning
Photos: THV Artes Roegiers Victor Buyck Steel Construction