Modern bridges are typically built at least a foot higher than the expected 50-year flood, but that’s not so for this unusual bridge built on the floodplains in the flood-prone Dutch city of Nijmegen. NEXT Architects and H+N+S Landscape Architects designed the Zalige Bridge, a footbridge that becomes partly submerged when the water levels rise, forcing people to use the exposed concrete blocks as stepping-stones to traverse the water. The playful, thought-provoking design exemplifies a Dutch relationship with water as one that embraces seasonal flooding rather than seeks to control it.
Completed in March 2016, Zalige Bridge recently caused a stir earlier this year on January 10 when water levels in the Waal River rose to its highest in 15 years. Locals eagerly went down to the submerged river to experience the dynamic river firsthand; the benches lining the then-submerged path become temporary stepping-stones. The flooding also eventually rose above the bench height and rendered the bridge temporarily inaccessible. Such flooding typically happens a few days a year.
“As a crest above the river, the bridge emphasizes the dynamic character of water by letting people see and experience the changing river landscape,” wrote NEXT Architects. “Within the river park, the spatial quality of the water is made visible in a poetic way.” Zalige Bridge was commissioned as part of Room for the River, a nationwide, government-sponsored project that sought proposals for flood prevention. The project aims to provoke discussion of how communities can learn to live with water.
Images via NEXT Architects, © Rutger Hollander