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Beautiful views from a footbridge to nowhere

04 of April '24

Warsaw's boulevards have been connected by the capital's first pedestrian and bicycle bridge. Enjoying great popularity among walkers, the crossing is one of the longest of its kind in the world. Unfortunately - the bridge connects the banks, but not the neighborhoods located on them. Even with the designation of the crossings, which are several years overdue, all functional shortcomings will not disappear.

Great public space, flawed infrastructure

Since its opening in late March, Warsaw's new pedestrian and bicycle bridge has been extremely popular. The beautiful views and the new public space in the center of the capital are gratifying - there hasn't been a bridge of this type in Warsaw before. The view from the Praga side is spectacular and the place is sure to become a tourist hit reproduced in thousands of photos, reports, soon probably used as a location for commercials and films. However, the closer we look at the new investment, the more flaws we discover in it. So is the new bridge a needed investment or just an expensive gadget? Or is it just that - such gadgets are exactly what we need?

Widok z mostu w stronę centrum

view from the bridge toward the center

photo: Kacper Kepinski

from idea to design, with a few changes

The pedestrian and bicycle bridge was designed by the Warsaw-based Schuessler Plan studio, which won the competition launched in 2017. The idea is an outgrowth of Małgorzata Dembowska's master's the sis - written under the supervision of Prof. Ewa Kuryłowicz at the Faculty of Architecture at the Warsaw University of Technology - which was successfully put into practice years later. The new structure stretches 452 meters in length and in this respect has become one of the longest such crossings in the world. The width of the lightning-bent structure varies and at its narrowest point is 6.9 meters, and over the river current it widens to 16.3 meters.

Projekt konkursowy — widoczne niezrealizowane elementy zejść na poziom bulwarów

Competition design - visible unrealized elements of the descent to the level of the boulevards

© Schuessler Plan | © UM Warszawa

Compared to the competition design, the crossing lacked several important elements, which lowered its utility value and attractiveness. On the Powiśle side, the construction of stairs, which were to be located in the fork of the bridge just above the boulevards and connect their lower level with the level of the footbridge, was abandoned. On the Praga side, a direct connection to the paths running under the footbridge was also not built - and two such paths were planned. The finishing materials have also changed.

Nowhere to nowhere

The new bridge has connected the banks, but not what is on them. At either end of it, it is in vain to find pedestrian crossings and passageways to continue walking. Level differences mean that the crossings and walkways that will be created will not be the most convenient solution at all. The bridge is also not on the route of any major bicycle route (planned or existing), and its transportation significance is minor.

Only now, after the bridge has been handed over to pedestrians and cyclists, will the Capital City Roads Administration begin preparatory work on laying out a pedestrian crossing at Karowa Street. It will be an "extension" of the bridge and will be equipped with traffic lights and bicycle crossings. The new "zebra" should be ready by the end of the vacations. It will take much longer to connect the bridge with the surroundings on its Prague side. The design of the target road system at the site is still underway, ZDM expects the documentation to be ready at the turn of summer and autumn. After that, it will only issue a tender for the actual reconstruction, so the realization of the work can be seen only in 2025. Despite this, it has not decided to introduce even a temporary traffic organization to facilitate the use of the new bridge.

Such a lack of consistency and a comprehensive approach to the subject of investment in public space in Warsaw is no exception. Suffice it to mention the failure to designate the planned pedestrian crossing in the Saska Axis during the recent renovation of Marszałkowska Street, or the years-long lack of a bicycle connection between the footbridge under the Łazienkowski Bridge and the network of bicycle paths on the other side of Wisłostrada.

the closer, the worse

The expressive, rust-colored form looks good from a distance - it contrasts with the light, (once) white Swietokrzyski Bridge with its simple and elegant form, introducing a completely contemporary element into the boulevard landscape. At the same time, thanks to its irregularities, it creates recreational "pockets" - waterfront plazas with seating. They have already become a place of urban life, street (or rather, bridge) concerts. Questions about security and order arise online, especially since the latter on the boulevards is sometimes bad after every warmer day. This, however, is already the job of city services, over which the designers had no control.

Praski koniec mostu — brak ujednolicenia elementów małej architektury

Prague end of the bridge - lack of unification of elements of small architecture

photo: Kacper Kepinski

What is a particular shortcoming of the project itself is its detailing. Underdeveloped, often the result of inaccurate work manship and lack of collaboration. Once again, as it happens in public investments in Poland, the area of development, is also the limit of the area of thinking. On the Prague side, we have three different types of railings - each in a different shape and color. The types of retaining walls and their finishes, flooring and small architecture are mixed - every order is different.

Detal wykonania elementów łączeniowych daleki jest od ideału

The detail of the execution of the connecting elements is far from perfect

Photo: Kacper Kepinski

Rust on the bridge is not corten steel, but a pretend painting of it. The durability of this solution remains to be seen, but its significant downsides are already evident. In the places where the railings are installed and where the various structural elements meet, one can see significant differences in the shades of the paint coating. Perhaps this could be survived if the "squares" of different color were of equal size, but they are not. They were done as they fell, as quickly as possible.

Widok od strony Powiśla — widoczne elementy instalacji elektrycznej na podporach

View from Powisle - visible elements of the electrical installation on the supports

Photo: Kacper Kepinski

A similar lack of attention to detail can be seen on the bridge' s pillars. Painted light gray, the concrete supports harmonize in shape with the geometric forms of the footbridge. Unfortunately, lighting elements in black housings have been mounted on them, with thick cables also running to them in black, and it is mainly these, rather than the designed shape of the supports, that can be seen.

big brother is watching

Black wiring and lighting is not the only incidental element of the equipment, quite minimalist after all, of a bridge where detail should play an important role. Camera poles were mounted on the highest structural points. It is a pity that a solution inscribed in the shape and architecture of the bridge was not found. However, it is hard to expect this, when even the color of the luminaires could not be matched to the rust-colored finish of everything around, and today "howl" there aesthetically white lampshades.

Kamera na najwyższym punkcie mostu

The camera on the highest point of the bridge

photo: Kacper Kepinski

Not white, but bright is the pavement used to finish the surface of the bridge. The lack of a designated bicycle lane has been repeatedly commented on in the media and criticized due to the possible creation of conflicts between people on bicycles and pedestrians. There is another disadvantage of such a solution - the all-gray, uniform finish of the floor and its (necessary) roughness causes a trace of any braking to be left on it in the form of black streaks created by tires.

Kamera na moście

camera on the bridge

Photo: Kacper Kepinski

Kacper Kępiński

The vote has already been cast