A concrete bridge gently arches over the Aare River in Aare, Switzerland, a valley town between Bern and Zurich. Designed by Swiss practice Christ & Gantenbein, alongside engineering studio WMM Ingenieure and Henauer Gugler, the new crossing may appear as a traditional infrastructure, however, a closer look reveals material optimization and an elegant restraint which defines many of the firm’s buildings.
Historically, this spot along the river has almost always been spanned by a bridge. Its most recent predecessor was a 1949 concrete crossing whose replacement was determined through a design competition. Christ & Gantenbein’s winning entry rose up to the brief: to create a structure that ingratiates the locale’s urban fabric, while echoing the distinct visual language found in the geographical context.
Around 390 feet long (119 meters) long and 57 feet wide (17.5 meters), the new Aare Bridge is a rational and modern structure of reinforced concrete, a material that both harkens back to the bridge’s former life while upgrading it.
It is made up of five arches of various widths, each of which rest partially on two piers in the riverbed which were reused from the prior bridge. This enables a monolithic supporting structure, in which the pillar foundations, pillars, arches, flanks, roadway, and parapet amount to a uniform, seamless construction. Board-forming marks provide a textural scale on the form’s surfaces. The bridge’s shaping, including the ovate openings within the supports, all help to bear its weight, resulting in an optimized use of concrete, a material with a significant carbon footprint.
The bridge comprises two car lanes, sidewalks on either side, and bike paths. Its light-gray color blends into the crossing’s natural environment. Christ & Gantenbein worked with local landscape architects August + Margrith Künzel Landschaftsarchitekten to help promote activity in the area designing public pathways and spaces along the river. The collaboration ensures that the views of bridge are as enjoyable to look at as the bridge itself.