On September 19, 2017, a 7.1-magnitude earthquake with wicked timing rattled a sizable swath of central Mexico, toppling dozens of buildings, killing over 200, and injuring thousands more in Mexico City alone. Outside of the Mexican capital city, the states of Puebla and Morelos also suffered widespread damage during the 20-second tremor with one of, if not the hardest-hit areas in the latter state being the municipality of Jojutla and its seat of Jojutla de Juárez, a small colonial market town bisected north-south by the Apatlaco River. At least 30 people in Jojutla perished while many more were injured or displaced. Along with the tragic loss of life, thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged (an estimated 70 percent of all structures, per the Wall Street Journal), with many of them collapsing into the river. Along with the beloved town hall clock tower, the city’s main bridge was also destroyed, severing movement across the Apatlaco and leaving once-connected communities detached from one another.
In observance of the fourth anniversary of the quake, the New York studio of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) has announced that a double-decker concrete pedestrian bridge, spanning the Apatlaco twice in the heart of Jojutla, has now entered the fundraising development phase. The bent-in-the-middle bridge, one-part pedestrian and cyclist thoroughfare and one-part linear park, was designed in 2018 to “facilitate a much-needed link between currently disconnected communities, create a new commercial axis, and transform the riverbank into a rehabilitated zone of activities in an effort to transform the Apatlaco River into a community resource rather than a threat,” according to OMA New York in an update announcing the project’s progress.
(This melding of straightforward pedestrian bridge and neighborhood-linking public park isn’t too dissimilar from OMA and OLIN’s Anacostia River-spanning 11th Street Bridge Park in Washington, D.C., a much-anticipated crossing on track for completion in 2024.)
Aiming to revive mobility while providing a new civic space for residents of the seismically-ravaged municipality, OMA’s 476-foot-long Jojutla Bridge, a project led by partner Shohei Shigematsu, will once again link downtown Jojutla and its eastern neighborhoods. Per the firm, the bridge provides three distinct access points: In Panchimalco, a colony located to the south of the core downtown area; at the bottom of Pacheco alley, which is near Jojutla’s historic center, and in Juarez, a centrally located neighborhood that was most affected by the 2017 earthquake.
OMA describes the form of the stacked pedestrian bridge-park as being akin to a colossal I-Beam, with a shaded lower deck home to divided cycling and walking paths and its upper level hosting a linear park, plaza, and market that, together, “encourage a new commercial axis as a connector of disparate communities.” Meanwhile, the structure’s “habitable openings of various scale operate as undefined spaces, benches, stairs, and doors accommodate a diversity of activities, pace, and access.”
“We are beginning to face natural disasters more frequently and the wide-ranging impacts demand more public spaces and resources to be integrated into resiliency design,” said Shigematsu. “In the wake of Mexico’s recurring earthquakes, the Jojutla Bridge aims to restore infrastructure as well as the spirit of community. Its two datums simultaneously reconnect not two, but three, fractured neighborhoods, anticipate disasters beyond earthquakes by mitigating potential flooding, and provide new amenities to revitalize people’s relationship to a river that’s currently feared or overlooked.”
Joining Shigematsu on the OMA New York design team is project architect Shary Tawil along with Francisco Waltersdorfer, Vicky Daroca, and Patricio Fernandez. CCA/Bernardo Quinzaños is serving as executive architect with WSP as structural engineer. The client is Infonavit (Instituto del Fondo Nacional de la Vivienda para los Trabajadores/ National Workers’ Housing Fund Institute), a nonprofit focused on rebuilding infrastructure in the municipality following the massive 2017 earthquake.
An anticipated completion date has yet to be announced.