When the first stone arch bridges rose in ancient Rome, they were looked at with disbelief, their perceived supernatural power even attributed to being a product of the devil. Modern times obviously debunked such ideas, but for a pedestrian footbridge just outside of Prague, architect Ondrej Císler and engineer Petr Tej channeled that otherworldly energy.
The 32-foot-long structure runs above the Dretovice stream, connecting the village of Vrapice to its cemetery. The graveyard is reachable by walking trails, but they’re now often flooded by the stream’s rising water. The City of Kladno reached out to Aoc.archi founder Císler, who teaches at Czech Technical University with Tej, to design it.
Conceiving the project as a gateway between the living and the dead—“like a numinous object from 2001: A Space Odyssey,” Císler says—the resulting bridge is a minimalist form of fiber-reinforced ultra-high performance concrete, a relatively new and technologically advanced version of the material that’s exceptionally strong, enabling it to be used sparingly. The built bridge is just 3 1/2 tons, rather weightless for a structure that long, with such mass. “Despite the notion that something made of concrete would be heavy, we hardly could have made this lighter,” Tej adds. He and Císler pigmented the concrete dark gray, helping the bridge blend into its natural surroundings—and imbuing it with a spiritual gravity.