The next twenty years will be marked by a radical change of the three ancient docks of Gent into a new urban district that will make the most out of its situation near the water. The masterplan by Rem Koolhaas for this new urban development area called Oude Dokken, between the districts of Dampoort and Muide, foresees the creation of 1.500 new housing units.
The three future footbridges - proposed for the competition – connect Oude Dokken in the north-east with the historic town center and play thus a major role in the revitalization of the district. Since the docks are the only waterway access to the historic town, the pass through for boats has to be granted.
The first of the three footbridges, Batavia – completed in 2012 (the other two bridges are awaiting the okay from the investors) proposes a functional and elegant solution at the same time. The district’s industrial as well as maritime context is underlined by the fusion of two materials: steel and oak. The transparency between the wooden planks emphasizes the proximity of the water and offers the passers-by way more than a simple crossing: a pleasant moment full of sensations. The footbridge transforms into a meeting place, a space for a relaxing break, it becomes a belvedere.
The structure, as simple and flat as possible, sticks close to the water. Designed as a simple extension of the quay, the structure seems to melt with its environment.
The part of the bridge oriented towards the town center can be lifted up easily thanks to two hydraulic pumps integrated in the pier foundation. As soon as a boat approaches this part of the bridge lifts up slowly. The parts situated laterally from the pumps, incline and form ramps, allowing pedestrians at all moment the crossing of the bridge. The changing geometry as well as the fact that the public space itself is lifted up, transform the crossing into an adventure.