Portuguese architects want to relocate
Porto's Maria Pia Bridge

| 28 comments
 

News: two Portuguese architects want to transform Porto's iconic Maria Pia Bridge, built in 1877 by Gustave Eiffel, into a monument by moving the disused structure from its present location on the River Douro to the city centre.

Designed by the French engineer of Eiffel Tower fame, the wrought-iron railway bridge has been out of use since 1991. However, as one of Porto's most recognisable structures, Pedro Bandeira and Pedro Nuno Ramalho believe it could help the city establish its international identity.

"The relocated D. Maria Pia Bridge would bring a new monumentality to the city," reads the architects' proposal. "The bridge would be a monument of the deindustrialisation, where the materiality of the nineteenth century gives place to the contemporary immateriality."

Relocation of the D. Maria Pia Bridge

Bandeira and Ramalho entered the proposal in a competition seeking ideas to revitalise the Aurifícia area in central Porto. Although it didn't win, the architects insist it could still become a catalyst for urban regeneration.

"By relocating [the bridge] to the centre of the city on a higher position, [it] would regain visibility but mostly another meaning, since it is released of the need of being useful," they said.

Relocation of the D. Maria Pia Bridge

According to the plans, the bridge's latticed girder structure could be easily dismantled. It could then be re-erected over a period of five months, with a budget of less than €10 million (£8.5 million).

Local journalist Ana Laureano Alves believes the project addresses some of the most important issues facing contemporary architecture.

"Although it may seem extreme in a first moment, I believe that it is an intelligent proposal," she told Dezeen. "On one hand it is a call for attention of the failure of the urban regeneration policies and, on the other, it is a provocation to the contemporary approach on monuments and history."

Relocation of the D. Maria Pia Bridge
Concept for dismantling the bridge

The bridge currently spans the River Douro in the south-east of the city. With a height of 60 metres and a 353-metre span, it was once the longest single-arch span in the world.

Here's a project description from the architects:


Relocation of the D. Maria Pia Bridge

Two architects, Pedro Bandeira and Pedro Nuno Ramalho proposed the relocation of the Eiffel's D. Maria Pia Bridge to the city centre, exposing its actual uselessness (not in use since 1991) and drastically changing the skyline of Oporto.

This proposal was a response for a call of ideas for the urban regeneration of the block Aurifícia in the city of Oporto, Portugal, promoted by the Portuguese Council of Architects. As it seems obvious, it did not win. If at a first glance it looks like as an ironic proposal of nonsense humour, it has also a deeper meaning. This strong gesture would establish a particular identity of the city, unique, bizarre and appealing. It may seem absurd, but in some way it just reflects the absurd that the city already is: the decadent urban landscape that invites the tourists to photograph the building in ruins, abandoned warehouses and factories; a scenario that no urban regeneration policy was able to reverse.

Relocation of the D. Maria Pia Bridge
Proposed site plan

Since 1991 the D. Maria Pia Bridge is not at use. With the two new bridges over the Douro River – the Infante Bridge and the S. João Bridge - it lost its scale and dignity; it is hidden and forgotten. By relocating it to the centre of the city on a higher position, the bridge would regain visibility but mostly another meaning, since it is released of the need of being useful. The proposal rescues the beautiful expression "work-of-art" used in some languages by the engineers to refer to the construction of bridges. The originality of the solution would contribute, in a first moment, for increasing tourism and consequently the development of other services. Aside from that, it is more significant the boost of the city's identity, nourishing the self-esteem of its inhabitants, the fundamental actors on the revitalisation of the city. Astonishingly, the project would be easily executed, both in the constructive and in economical terms. The lattice girder structure of the bridge is light and easily disassembled. It would require around five months for the entire process of construction and a budget of less than 10 million of euros, eight times less than the costs of Koolhaas' Casa da Música, located in the vicinity. As the Eiffel Tower, the relocated D. Maria Pia Bridge would have a significative impact, contributing for promoting the image of the city worldwide.

Relocation of the D. Maria Pia Bridge
Proposed site section

The relocated D. Maria Pia Bridge would bring a new monumentality to the city. New, considering it is far from the classical sense of the expression, as of institutionalisation of History. It is a transgressive monumentality that aims for its permanent actualisation meaning, reflecting the present conscious of its fragility. The Bridge would be a monument of the deindustrialisation, where the materiality of the 19th century gives place to the contemporary immateriality, where there is no space for a bridge that connects just two places. The bridge died, but it died standing, like a tree.

  • sickofbulls%&*

    Yawn. Academic jokers.

    • Chris MacDonald

      Agreed. Academic at best. Another pointless “what if we did this.”

      • amsam

        Obviously it won’t happen but if you think “what if we did this” questions are “pointless” you’re missing out on A LOT.

        • Chris MacDonald

          Not at all. Most people don’t let nonsense thoughts see the light of day, they have a little something called intuition, or as I like to call it “a bulls*** filter”.

          • porto

            Right… You sound like those “down to earth” realistic politicians or even better, civil constructor.

  • omnicrom

    Having been to Porto and seen this bridge for myself, I have to say this is stupid beyond belief. It’s a wonderful structure, along with the city’s many other bridges and deserves far better than this.

  • Luís Pinto

    Hope this goes nowhere. And note to poster, the river’s name is “Douro” not “Duoro”.

    • http://www.dezeen.com/ Dezeen Magazine

      Hi Luís,

      Thank you for pointing this out. We have corrected the story.

      Kind regards,

      Ross/Dezeen

    • carsten

      Well, they are already bankrupt. They might sell the scrap steel and have no bridge left at all.

      • Tripeiro

        I apologise but I need to make a correction since what you say isn’t true. We’re not bankrupt. We have a corrupted government destroying our economy and serving the EU while stealing its people.

        • Airborne

          This project is perhaps a little outlandish, but the idea that Portuguese architects have to turn to existing buildings and materials is not far fetched. We are past the era that the EU is subsidising cultural projects in Portugal and it’s economy isn’t very promising.

  • stutelf

    Bit late for April Fools’ – and it seemed pretty operational when I got a tram across it about 8 years ago.

    • Cary

      This is impossible since the crossover of trains on the bridge D. Maria ended over 20 years ago. This bridge, that is now a National Monument, is closed.

      You must be confusing it with the Bridge D. Luis in which the metro tram runs on the top level. The metal structure of D. Luís Bridge is kind of similar to the D. Maria.

      • stutelf

        Yes, I stand corrected. Memory of the day is quite hazy, especially since I crossed the bridge to spend the day going on guided tours of all the port distilleries on the other side of the river :) Still a daft idea though, unless they rent it out to Red bull for Flugtag.

  • Tiago

    Clap clap clap.

  • Tripeiro

    You’re so wrong. There are two bridges in Porto made by Teófilo Seyrig a known Eiffel associate. None of them is truly recognised as being from Eiffel.

    One is D. Maria Pia (and not just Maria Pia) which is abandoned and used to serve the railroad. The other is D. Luiz I near Porto’s downtown with two platforms (the upper one for the subway and the bottom one for car traffic).

    • porto

      It’s amazing to see the confidence that some people have in incorrect assumptions!

  • Rodion

    Well, I had a good laugh! I hope the Portuguese taxpayers did to.

  • Joao

    Curious editorial choice… How about publishing the projects that actually won the competition, and leave the academic speculation for other media?

  • Rui Prazeres

    Why are we not funding this?

  • Arnold

    Sure. In fact I have a better idea, let’s dismantle it and put it in the British Museum.

    • athens

      They don’t have anymore space because of the Greek ruins that they stole.

  • PeterB

    Since pylons aren’t the nicest things to live alongside, this could be all too imposing to have over your dwelling. I would guess that it would provide a good lightning conductor to a large part of the city!

  • Dan

    Why not turn it into a pedestrian bridge on the original site?

  • carlos

    I’m portuguese! What a horrible architect! It’s a bridge not a sculpture. Eiffel Tower is a tower not a bridge!

    • philippe

      You’ve got yourself a brilliant counter-proposal there. Got some spare time and Photoshop?

  • Andrew Thompson

    This idea is excellent. It’s a shame it didn’t get serious consideration. Go on Porto, make it happen!
    Great work Pedro Bandeira and Pedro Nuno Ramalho.

  • amsam

    Boring concepts get realized all the time – doesn’t make me wish I’d been the one who realized them. Amazing concepts that happen can grow out of outrageous concepts that can’t.