THE NEW FOOT BRIDGE AND BICYCLE BRIDGE, MARIBOR, SLOVENIA

A collaborative project by Ja Architecture Studio with VAV Studio

Maribor, the second largest city in Slovenia, became the European Capital of Culture in 2012. As part of the three catalyst projects to revive the historic riverfront of the city, Maribor hosted a competition to design a 150m long footbridge for walking and cycling on the location of a demolished historic bridge over the Drava River. Ja Studio’s proposal was an effort to revisit the idea of the bridge as a multi-functional urban surface that resolves its geometry between the structural issues of crossing and spanning and the functional opportunities that may potentially arise from these structural necessities.  

Revealing the History of the Site: The two sides of the bridge surface touch their support asymmetrically; this allows the start and end of the bridge to have one side touching the ground and the other cantilevered. The asymmetry allows the cantilevered side of the structure to function as a canopy for the existing piers of the historic bridge and reveals the layers of history embedded in the site. The historic piers become accessible platforms and would provide views to the sculptural underside of the bridge for the pedestrians on the embankment.

The Spontaneity of Use: People’s spontaneous use of this urban surface would turn the bridge to an urban spectacle. The bridge is designed as a 15m wide surface that can create a variety of experiential condition between people and Drava. The undulation of the bridge surface on one hand provides the structural stability of the bridge and at the same time allows the users to reach the water and engage in variety of spontaneous activities. From collective joy of watching a rowing competition during Lent festival to a romantic encounter on a narrow walkway down from the ridge, the range of possible interaction of people and water becomes infinite. The top surface of the bridge would be covered with wood decking that turns to steps on the accessible areas and morphs into a single sloped surface on the steep conditions. The single surface areas will be protected from public access by a combination of steel tube guardrails. The ridge of the surface is a horizontal pathway that forms a datum for the bridge and connects the two sides of the bridge.

Drava as the reflection of Maribor: The underside of the bridge is clad with mirror finished copper roofing sheets to both protect the structure of the bridge and reflect the Drava ripples and the colors of historic Maribor clay tile roofs.The image of Drava is the reflection of Maribor and the bridge. The choice of copper as the material for the underside of the bridge once reflected in Drava would give more presence to this idea. The harmony of copper with the roof clay tiles would tie the reflected image of Lent to the reflected image of Tabor and would seamlessly connect the two sides of the river.