It is exceptional to design a service building for a bridge that is only used 6 times per year. For approximately 350 days of the year the bridge house is merely transformer station. Instead of viewing this transformer station as an object of technocratic hindrance, a new bridge house can be a remarkable landmark in the Walcheren canal, a folly in the water.
The station surrounding is a place where many things converge, infrastructure as well as building and urbanism. At this moment the identity of the area is diffuse, the canal is broad and the building relatively small scaled, the place is searching for a balance between urbanity and the periphery whilst it lies in the heart of the city Middelburg. The Station Bridge is the entrance to the inner-city from the central public infrastructural knot. Between the intimate inner-city and the widespread surrounding around the station, the Station Bridge is literally and figuratively a hinge. The phenomenon of the pivoting bridge makes the crossing of the van Walcheren canal a special experience.
Looking back over the bridge to the end of the Station street, the ‘Lange Jan’ towers above the inner-city. The elegant 90 meter high tower of the abbey dominates the city centre and stands out because of its green copper roof. To accentuate the Station Bridge as entry to the city of Middelburg, we wish to materialise the bridge house in a material that refers to the tower spires and which is a modern translation of copper roofs that used to cover the traditional bridge service buildings in the first part of the 20th century. Apart from this, the green printed glass is highly suitable for a façade which will receive little maintenance.
The bridge house is a modern addition to the classic Station Bridge. We searched for a formal concept that does not refer to the bridge but rather relates to it. The final form of the bridge house is the result of a number of practical as well as formal considerations.
The object is orientated on the middle point of the bridge and is simultaneously a multi-sided sculpture; the three facades are focused on the foot of the bridge, the water and the Blauwedijk.
The attendant has a 360° panorama view and the switch board stands in the direction of the bridge. The electrical installations and the toilet are positioned a half level lower so that the attendants’ view is not hindered.
The backward leaning appearance of the object is derived from this split-level section. Because we do not want the object to float above the water but to stand in it, the underside of the object is skewed towards the concrete foot that supports the entire structure.
The form of the building is a dominant factor within the framework of this concept, the glass skin is wrapped tightly around the stubborn technical installation and creates a transparent and mirroring skin that sometimes reveals the content and sometimes reflects the surrounding. The green glass panels are mounted against a steel ‘cage’ construction; at eyelevel the printed abstract figures gradually are reduced so the view through the glass will be optimized.
The bridge house derives its’ strength from the fact that it is not used. It is a closed object with many hidden surprises. It looks like a diamond balanced on a point that reaches its full lustre at night as the green light automatically radiates through the printed glass, illuminating the surrounding and the water in a mysterious manner.
The building was awarded with the AM/Nai price (best building in the Netherlands designed by an architect younger than 40)
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