River Bridge was an open design competition project for a pedestrian bridge in
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The pedestrian bridge program required a
design intended to connect the north shore of the Miljacka River with the
architecturally exuberant main building of the Academy of Fine Arts. The most
direct purpose of the bridge was to extend the Radiceva Street that terminates
on the north side of the Miljacka River. This 100 meter extension was intended
to transpose the urban center of Sarajevo which dominated the north shore of
the Miljacka River to its south shore pedestrian promenade in front of the
Academy of Fine Arts. Program called for a broader urban design plan to create
activities that would attract pedestrians to the south shore of the Miljacka
River and connect these broken urban “tissues” of the city.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country rich with mountainous rivers that have inspired some ingenious bridge design solutions in the past. In addition to architectural precedents, a recent war in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995 was also a subject from which an inspiration for a design solution was drawn. During the war Sarajevo endured a longest siege in the history of modern warfare in which much of the city was destroyed. Solid construction materials such as stone, steel or concrete were futile to provide needed protection from destruction. Evidentually the lighter and transparent materials were equally powerless to hold off the ravages of bombardment and human destruction. This “kinship in fragility” between different materials opened a possibility to artistically reinterpret common perceptions of what is perceived as solid, stable and lasting materials vs. brittle, weak and relatively short-lived ones. For that reason, if not only for the sense of contradiction or irony, the bridge over Miljacka River was proposed to feature transparent glass as the most prominent material. Glass is used for both railing as well as walking surfaces as an architectural solution that reflected the enduring, contradictory and spiteful spirit of Sarajevans who survived the war. The glass bridge, while providing multiple transparent vistas, seamed also as a most elegant design solution standing in its simplicity as a single glass string over the Miljacka River. With simple structural supports, the bridge’s homogenous, airy and “light” quality was intended to celebrate the seaming fragility, while still providing a strong structural support through ingenious engineering to serve its purpose. The glass materials proposed were to employ latest glass lamination techniques including PVB (polyvinyl butyral) laminating procedures, achieving solid walking and railing surfaces that would withstand time, traffic and the elements.
The gallery space, intended to expand the program of the Academy of Fine Arts onto the south Milljacka shore, was also a requirement of the competition. In proposedt design solution, the gallery was intersected by the bridge creating two spaces which are than engaged in the circulation network of the city that both defined its form as well as provided functional and informative element for pedestrians. The galleries, which also use transparent glass as their envelope, were supported by series of concrete piles erratically penetrating both spaces with two primary references. First was to simulate the growth of natural vegetation from the river bed such as trees that would naturally grow next to the river bank and second was to simulate the erratic direction by which missiles were falling onto Sarajevo during the siege. Both symbols were abstractly transformed to create a structural system which supported the gallery spaces. The confluence of two elements portrayed both the natural and erratic character of the context while contrasting two elements of natural and human existence both the creation and the destruction. It is in between these two forces that the creative solution for this design problem is nested.
Collaboration with: Velida Zlatar and Jelena Obradovic
Status: Competition Entry
Location: Sarajevo, BA