Portuguese Architects Seek to Relocate Porto’s Maria Pia Bridge

International
Monday, November 11, 2013
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Maria Pia Bridge Relocation. (Pedro Bandeira)

Maria Pia Bridge Relocation. (Pedro Bandeira)

With the purpose of conferring the city of Porto, Portugal a new global identity, architects Pedro Bandeira and Pedro Nuno Ramalho have propositioned for the relocation of the Maria Pia Bridge from its original location on the River Douro to the city center. Plans indicate that the bridge’s framework could be easily dismantled and, though it may seem absurd, the proposal comes with a clever solution.

Maria Pia Bridge Relocation (Photo: Pedro Bandeira)

Maria Pia Bridge Relocation (Photo: Pedro Bandeira)

Also called Ponte Dona Maria, the railway bridge was built in 1877 by Gustave Eiffel—the same designer of the Eiffel Tower—but has not realized its original purpose since the early 1990s. Constructed entirely of wrought iron, its double-hinged crescent arch once supported the Lisbon-bound train for 1,158 feet at a height of 200 feet across the River Douro. When built, it was the world’s longest single-arch span.

The architects sense that the railway bridge has “lost its scale and dignity; it is hidden and forgotten.” By repositioning it in the center of Porto, the bridge would redeem its visibility and gain significance as a work of art. Remarkably, the undertaking could be easily implemented, with a budget of less than 10 million euros, by disassembling and reassembling the surprisingly light structure within five months.

While Bandeira and Ramalho’s railway bridge relocation concept may be on track to “bring a new monumentality to the city, the bridge would be a monument of the deindustrialisation, where the materiality of the nineteenth century gives place to the contemporary immateriality,” their proposal failed to win over the Portuguese Council of Architects, whose competition sought schemes for urban regeneration. Nevertheless, the duo contends the move could serve as a spark for urban renewal.

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