DFA | Dietmar Feichtinger Architectes

DFA | Dietmar Feichtinger Architectes

Montreuil, FR | Wien, AT


Footbridge Batavia - Oude Dokken

The ancient arsenal in the north of the Flemish capital Gent has been abandoned over the years and thus lost all its industrial glory. Situated close to the historic old town, these docks offer an ideal site to develop new urban life.

The next twenty years will be marked by a radical change of the three ancient docks of Gent into a new urban district that will make the most out of its situation near the water.  The masterplan by Rem Koolhaas for this new urban development area called Oude Dokken, between the districts of Dampoort and Muide, foresees the creation of 1.500 new housing units.

The idea focuses on developing the area as an extension of the inner city, rather than building in the close suburbs, while responding to the needs of modern infrastructure and high quality of life.  The urban planning also includes new green spaces and leisure areas, offices, local retails as well as public buildings like a school, a kindergarten and a gymnasium. Simply put, Gent will have a new lively and busy urban district right along the channel.

The major issue of the project for the footbridges relates to this context of urban renewal emphasizing the strong bond with the existing historic town center, the tie between the new and the old, the modern and existing, the future and the past. The resulting project is characterized by its simplicity; a simplicity that takes nevertheless advantage of the latest technical innovations in order to provide not only a crossing but a real public space. A point of contact between the exuberant modernity of Oude Dokken and the calm presence of the historic town centre.

The three future footbridges - proposed for the competition – connect Oude Dokken in the north-east with the historic town center and play thus a major role in the revitalization of the district. Since the docks are the only waterway access to the historic town, the pass through for boats has to be granted.

The first of the three footbridges, Batavia – completed in 2012 (the other two bridges are awaiting the okay from the investors) proposes a functional and elegant solution at the same time. The district’s industrial as well as maritime context is underlined by the fusion of two materials: steel and oak. The transparency between the wooden planks emphasizes the proximity of the water and offers the passers-by way more than a simple crossing:  a pleasant moment full of sensations. The footbridge transforms into a meeting place, a space for a relaxing break, it becomes a belvedere.

The structure, as simple and flat as possible, sticks close to the water. Designed as a simple extension of the quay, the structure seems to melt with its environment.

Project completed : 2012

Length : 110 m

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Status: Built
Location: Gent, BE
Firm Role: Head Designer