Located on the IJ River, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, the Island Hill Bridge connects the older Amsterdam-Zuid (South) part of Amsterdam with the newer Amsterdam-Noord (North), solving a major transportation issue.
Construction of a bike bridge in this area has been limited due to tall container ships and cruise ships that pass by on the river.
This proposal allows for container ships to pass underneath, and swings open for cruise ships to go by. The opening of the bridge could become a spectacular attraction on its own. In addition, the top of the bridge is the new Island Hill Park that offers stunning views of Amsterdam and the excitement of turning into an island each time a cruise ship passes by.
A Problem to Solve
First of all, I want to credit Non Architecture Competitions (https://www.nonarchitecture.eu/) because I learned about this issue through a competition they organized this year (2021). I started working on this as a direct response to their competition brief, however, I did not enter the competition as I offered a solution that was located on a different site than what the competition required (more about this later).
Amsterdam is a vibrant city that established and grew dense on the south of the IJ River. Amsterdam’s South, East, and West, are interconnected webs of channels, as well as bicycle, pedestrian, and automobile paths. However, bicycles and public transportation are mostly used in the city.
On the north side of the IJ River is Amsterdam North, which is a newer section, and it is growing in density every year. The problem is that there are not enough bicycle bridges or tunnels that cross the IJ River, so bikers need to cross the river by ferry boat. Public transportation works well and ferry boats are constantly active, however, they can get crowded and people may have to wait for a few minutes for the boat.
A bridge or tunnel would allow bikers (and pedestrians) to cross at any time, without having to wait for ferry boats to be active and available. Unfortunately, because the section of the IJ River closest to downtown (the densest area) is used for cruise ships (as the Cruise Ship terminal is right there) as well as container ships and many other ships and boats, building a bridge (or tunnel) has been a major challenge. Many proposals have been studied by the City of Amsterdam and it’s residents, and much discussion has taken place without a solution that satisfies everyone.
As I read Non Architecture Competition’s brief, I was very interested because I am familiar with the site. I stayed at a hotel in Java Island, just a block away from the site they selected for the competition, and I walked many times from there to Centraal Station, which is in the area where most pedestrians and cyclists are going to, or coming from. I analyzed the Java Island site and the Centraal Station site for the best possible solution I could find. If I found a solution worth discussing with others, I would develop it further.
For me, the Centraal Station site was more exciting than the Java Island site because it provided the best return on investment to the City of Amsterdam. I found a solution that seemed to offer many benefits, so I decided develop it further even if it meant that I would not qualify for the competition. Since the purpose of Non Architecture’s competition was to establish a dialog about different solutions to Amsterdam’s issue (discussed above), I thought that continuing with this design would provide more value to the conversation.
The Island Hill Bridge would be a costly endeavor. However, I believe that it is an investment that would please the City of Amsterdam Infrastructure Department as well as residents from the neighborhood. This proposal solves most of the issues (that have been discussed many times in the past) without generating new problems (to the best of my knowledge).
Some of the benefits of building the Island Hill Bridge next to the Cetraal Station are:
- The bridge would be close to the densest areas of the city so it would be used by more cyclists, pedestrians, locals, and tourists.
- Locating the bridge next to the Centraal Station, as well as the bridge’s height and layout, make it a more visible and recognizable landmark.
- The bridge connects dense Amsterdam-Zuid with a growing Overhoeks in Amsterdam-Noord, connecting directly to the Eye Filmmuseum.
- Ramps are far away from buildings and become an attraction to view from afar. Ramps also provide great views, from different angles, to the buildings.
- The height of the bridge allows for container ships to pass under it without the need to open and close it many times a day.
- The bridge remains open to cyclists and pedestrians most of the time.
- The bridge only swings open when a cruise ship needs to pass by, then swings back when the ship has passed. This turns into an event that people would love to experience.
- The top of the bridge turns into a public park and provides views of the city that will attract locals and tourists alike.