Designed by 3LHD of Zagreb, Croatia, for Rijeka, a small but key port city on Croatia’s Adriatic coast, Memorial Bridge commemorates the country’s victims of the 1990s Balkan wars. A seamless synthesis of form and function made this combination memorial and pedestrian bridge the standout best of category. The bridge is an L shape in profile, composed of just two connected elements: a horizontal footbridge and a vertical monument at one end.
“There is something inexplicable in its form that conveys its role as a memorial,” said Chou, who praised the project’s potent symbolism. The smooth gray slabs of the monument suggested headstones to both jurors, without being overtly morbid. Chou also admired the design’s considered simplicity: “It’s not about structural gymnastics-guy wires and cables-the bridge possesses a certain sobriety because of its restraint and elemental gestures.”
By day, the aluminum-clad footbridge serves as a practical conduit between the eastern and western parts of the city, standing out from-but not clashing with-the surrounding classical architecture in its economy of form. At night the bridge transforms visually into a magical runway, illuminated by cool blue led lights installed under the handrails. Two pools of light reflected on the water beneath either end of the promenade make the structure appear to float. Reinforced concrete abutments buried within the quays streamline the entire structure and enhance the sense of weightlessness.
From one bank springs the nearly 30-foot monument, which is divided asymmetrically by a pedestrian passage. This cleft between the two aluminum-sheathed monoliths reveals interior glass bricks. A breath of light and air between the imposing slabs, the space becomes a symbolic window through tragedy onto a new future.
Manfredi was impressed by the sophisticated engineering, noting that the bridge is not just a reminder of a horrific past, but also a tribute to the redemptive power of intelligent design. “It’s a great lesson for us in this country,” he said.
Q&A WITH SASA BEGOVIC
Were you influenced by any existing memorials?
I guess subconsciously we were influenced by many monuments. We can count a lot of local Croatian memorials from the Second World War and probably the Maya Lin [Vietnam] memorial as influences. But it is hard to compare these projects to ours, because the nature of ours is different. Most memorials have no explicit function while Memorial Bridge is a pedestrian walkway. The issue of the monument we were working on turned out to be a functional more than a monumental aesthetic one.
How do the materials you worked with relate to the concept behind the bridge?
Our main concept from the beginning was very simple: bridge=monument! We were trying to equalize these two entities. After deciding upon this, we spent four years finding the best possible solutions to express that concept. We chose a steel girder manufactured in a local shipyard, and for the surfacing, aluminum planks produced in Sweden. Mainly, we researched possible materials on the Internet. We should say thanks to google.com!
What were the biggest challenges you faced in designing Memorial Bridge?
First, to build it at all. There were the technological demands of the execution, the surfacing and lighting, and then the political climate and media pressure. It was the effect on space and society this structure produces that inspired us to complete this project with a multimedia component. The “Bridge Document” includes two videos, an experimental film and a book, which address the philosophical and ideological problems of a monument-bridge. We see it as a continuation of the realization of our bridge, having it become an inspiration and motif guiding authors from different media to interpret simultaneously the notions of monuments, patriotism, war.
BIO 3LHD, a collaborative architecture studio in Zagreb, Croatia, was founded in 1994 by Sasa Begovic, Marko Dabrovic, Tanya Grozdanic and Silvije Novak, all graduates of the Architecture Faculty, University of Zagreb. The studio’s award-winning projects reveal a concern for the integration of architecture, art and urban landscape. The Memorial Bridge has received a number of distinctions over the past two years, including a Piranesi Award and a 2002 ar+d award for emerging architects. The studio recently finished its biggest commission to date, a new football stadium for the city of Osijek, Croatia, and won first prize in a competition for the Croatian Pavilion at EXPO 2005 in Aichi, Japan.
CLIENT City of Rijeka, Croatia
DESIGN3LHD, Zagreb, Croatia: Sasa Begovic, Marko Dabrovic, Tanja Grozdanic, Silvije Novak
MATERIALS | FABRICATION Steel, RC verticals, aluminium, glass, wood, glass bricks, epoxy resin, LED fixtures
SOFTWARE Adobe Photoshop, Autocad, Freehand, Lightscape, Lightwave, Nemetschek