The Emscher River is a tributary of the Rhine and sits in a vast industrial area, which has used the river as an open waste canal, rendering the actual “river” virtually biologically dead. Since the 1990s a huge renaturation project has been in the works to rehabilitate the river. The project is expected to cost several billion Euros and be completed in 2020.
Before the river returns to nature though, Observatorium wanted to encourage people to explore the river bed, so they constructed Warten auf den Fluss (Waiting for the River). The habitable bridge spanned 38 meter (125 ft) long and included dormitories, outdoor eating areas and a bathroom. During the summer of 2010, visitors could come lounge around the bridge, enjoy a picnic lunch and walk around the space to observe the existing flora and fauna. Guests were also encouraged to stay overnight and sleep in the dormitory to experience a full 24 hrs in nature.
Built from reclaimed timbers, Warten auf den Fluss was designed so people could experience the area before it changed. As Observatorium describes it, “In ten years time the river Emscher, now a sewer canal between dikes will be a natural river again. It is the symbol of change from Ruhrgebiet. Observatorium symbolizes the anticipation of better times and a better environment by building a living covered bridge for a river that is not there yet and invites people to wait 24 hours for the river.”