As a well-used public space, the Kattenbrug in Groningen presents a unique opportunity to incorporate the meaning – or the soul – of the area’s past with a new meaning for its present and future, for all residents. Our design draws from the rich visual history of peat barges entering the city: pieces of architecture on the water. These have been translated into the bridge’s shape, generating new perspectives, views, and frames of the surrounding environment. The material incorporates forms that invite different uses and lead to a diversity of activities. The material, a light and soft clay / baked stone, ties every part of the project together: architecture, public space, construction, furniture and lighting.
The bridge crosses diagonally so as to allow the bus traffic to move more smoothly through it, rather than driving directly towards surrounding buildings and making sharp turns. The diagonal orientation also provides for more interesting perspectives and uses of the public space.
To strengthen the connection with the water from the street, the historic quay lines on the west side are being restored so that the canal river becomes wider. The water immediately becomes more accessible through the public staircase attached to the Kattenbrug, as well as a number of floating and movable platforms. These are public places that can be developed in collaboration with the neighborhood’s residents. Lighting is incorporated into the bridge’s material so that every night it emanates a warm glow over the area.
While we are designing with the old city in mind, we are also designing with a vision for the future by giving space to new ways of thinking, as well as interpretations and rituals that together lead to a layered and inclusive public place, for all residents of Groningen. By attracting many different inhabitants, new programs can also be created in the area in the long term: places where the history of the city can continue to be written.