In 2019, the Canton of Zurich launched an anonymous two-phased design competition which sought proposals for a bypass around the town of Eglisau, including a significant crossing over the River Rhine. The proposal from Architect and Engineer Santiago Calatrava was the chosen as the winner from a shortlist of 12 entries.
Calatrava’s winning design was described by the Jury as:
"Despite a certain discretion, extremely elegant and self-confident".
The Jury’s appraisal continued:
"With their outgrowing double arches, the two main supports act in an exciting and well-proportioned manner as a hinge between the land-water-land areas. The river basin is favorably set free by the generous arch span. Overall, the project succeeded in proposing a bridge with a great identity across the Rhine, which, in combination with the existing bridges in Eglisau, could hold its own identity without competing with them.”
The Design Proposal:
The principal aim of the proposed Eglisau bypass is to relieve the historic town center of the high volumes of traffic (22,000 vehicles per day) and associated traffic congestion. A key challenge faced by the competition participants was to conceive a solution for the River crossing and approach roads which would provide an alternative route through the busy Zurich-Schaffhausen-Germany axis, whilst preserving the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape and existing railway viaduct (a protected structure).
The location of the River crossing in Calatrava’s proposal was carefully selected in order to achieve a respectable distance from the adjacent viaduct, whilst facilitating a seamless connection with the local road network.
This sense of balance and proportion is also evident in the bridge design, which is deeply sympathetic to its surroundings. The arch typology associated with the existing crossings at Eglisau is reinterpreted in a contemporary manner, resulting in a slender and elegant bridge which vaults gracefully over the River. In this sense, Calatrava’s design represents an innovative continuation of the site’s architectural legacy, allowing the different eras of bridge construction to be apprehended easily and in harmony with the surrounding valley.
As part of its evaluation, the jury concluded: “The project has been carefully processed and is technically convincing. The Rhine is crossed with an imposing arch and for the approaching lanes there are subtle, slender continuous beams. On a development since the prequalification, the arch is now arranged under the road, which is advantageous in terms of durability. The bridge appears elegant and confident. It is considerate with the surroundings and fits perfectly into the protected landscape. With this project the “bridge-landscape” made by the railway viaduct and the existing road bridge could be complemented harmoniously.”