Footbridge in Coimbra
A new footbridge now graces the old university town of Coimbra in central Portugal. Spanning the slow-flowing river Mondego, it draws the eye, especially when the sunlight plays on the coloured glass in the railings. On the bridge itself the coloured reflections enliven the plain wooden flooring. The colours come from the angled glass panels set in a seemingly irregular pattern in the slim steel railing that zigzags down the sides the walkway. Half way along the bridge broadens out around a viewing platform, also popular as a meeting place. Because the two halves are offset against each other, it looks from the beginning of the bridge as if they won’t actually meet in the middle – also an allusion to a famous and tragic 14th-century love story between King Pedro and Ines that is told in Coimbra to this day.
The division of the bridge into two is continued in the support structure. Three slim arches carry the shallow sloping walkway. Offset against each other at the midpoint, the arches are positioned at the edge of the pedestrian walkway.
From the banks, as you approach the bridge, one half of the structure disappears in shadow, the other gleams in sunlight, further strengthening the impression of dislocation. The midpoint platform offers a range of views, including back along the line of the bridge. Shifting the arches out of line with the main axis meant that vibrations could be reduced and the structure optimised.
The new bridge is part of a nationally funded programme to reinvigorate and upgrade development along the banks of the river. On the east bank are broad meadows and the city centre, while on the west a prominent monastery building rises high above the residential development.
Linking the two sides is the sleek new footbridge, spanning 110 metres in the central section, but rising no more than 10 metres above the water, making it easier for wheelchair users to cross.
The steel frame is clad in steel sheet, coated white with a pink shimmer that harmonises well with the lively play of colour in the glass balustrade.