The Dutch know how to live with water. The Zalige bridge by NEXT architects i.c.w. H+N+S Landscape Architects is becoming the proof of this. The bridge is slowly submerging under the rising water and is reachable only through stepping stones. It becomes the ultimate place to experience the high water. In the Dutch city of Nijmegen, where the bridge is located, water levels of 11,50 m NAP+ are being measured. Such height was reached only once in the last 15 years.
In the past this would have been a threat; but now the high water becomes an attraction. People walk over the bridge and through the river park to see and experience the high water. The Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment expects water levels to reach the highest point tomorrow: 12 m NAP+. Then, even the stepping stones will be submerged under the water.
The Zalige bridge was completed in March 2016 but only now it is able to show its real strength as an integral part of the path structure of the urban river park in Nijmegen. Normally, the river has an average height of 7 m NAP+ and the bridge stands high above the water. The bridge landings and the stepping stones have been designed to be perfectly aligned with the profile of the landscape. When water levels rise, some parts of the bridge will submerge, changing its appearance and its use.
“It makes people experience of the changing water levels” says Michel Schreinemachers, partner NEXT architects. The Zalige bridge is part of Room for the River. This ia a nation-wide project initiated by the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment i.c.w. provinces and municipalities that prevents flooding by giving more room to the river.
Room for the Waal, by the City of Nijmegen and i-Lent, is the largest project within the national programme and involved relocating the dike and constructing an ancillary channel in the flood plains: a bypass for the river. It is the first time that the newly created bypass has the opportunity to prove its efficacy. “Awareness for water issues is still low unfortunately” told Henk Ovink, first Special Envoy for International Water Affairs for the Kingdom of the Netherlands, a few days ago.
“This is why we have to tell more stories to make people understand how important the water issue is.” And this is exactly what the Zalige bridge does: this bridge by NEXT emphasizes the dynamic character of water by letting people see and experience the changing river landscape. The attention and enthusiasm for the high water shows how we manage to live with water in the Netherlands, not by restraining it, but by giving it enough space. If you can’t beat them, join them.
People in Nijmegen now look forward to the water’s highest point, expected on Wednesday 10 January. Then, the bridge is not even accessible through the stepping stones. As a crest above the water, the Zaligebridge will stand for our inextricable tie to our rivers. Source and photos Courtesy of NEXT architects.