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Monday, June 27, 2011

Stay a Night in a Bridge Made from Reclaimed Wood, Built Over a River-to-Be

by Alex Davies, Paris, France

All Images Courtesy of Observatorium

Looking at the bridge, you wonder what it's doing there. It sits on dry, flat land. It doesn't connect anything to anything else. And its zig-zagging shape doesn't exactly scream practicality. That's because this is no ordinary bridge: it's also a hostel, a picnic site and an art project. And while the surrounding land is dry for the moment, it won't stay that way: a river is scheduled to arrive in 2020.


"Waiting for the River", a 2010 project by Rotterdam-based art group Observatorium, was part of that year's Emscherkunst, an annual arts festival in Germany's Ruhr region. The now awaited water has run here before: the Emscher River, a tributary of the Rhine, was used as an open waste canal in the 19th century and is now biologically dead.

But a project, in planning since the early 1990s, is aiming to rehabilitate the river and the once heavily industrial region. The river will be cleaned and re-naturalized to its former course, sometime in the next ten years. That's the raison d'etre of Waiting for the River, which Observatorium designed to encourage people to explore the area and learn about the project.

Observatorium describes the bridge as somewhere in the "gray area between art and architecture." Stretching 125 feet and made from wooden planks recovered from the Rotterdam port, it included sleeping and eating areas. Visitors were invited to spend a full 24 hours at the site, to fully appreciate what is there now, and imagine what things will look like in a decade.

Originally meant to be temporary, the bridge was in place from May through September 2010. But if you missed your chance to visit, don't worry: it was so popular that Observatorium has decided to rebuild it, permanently, in 2013. So if you stick around long enough, you may even be the first to fish off the side.