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A BRIDGE BECOMES A PLACE

Shoemaker's Bridge (see page 33) across the river Ljubljanica is a part of Ple. cnik's sequence of riparian events - bridges, embankments, promenades, market and monuments, writes Joe Holyoak. Viewed from up or downriver, the bridge appears insubstantial: merely a flat platform dropped across the water, its span bisected by a twin-arched central support. But its appearance from afar is less significant than its shaping of space.

Forming a double square on plan, about 24 x 12m, Shoemaker's Bridge makes a place in the city for inhabitation. Some people browse at bookstalls, others linger in conversation.

In this respect, it exemplifies Heidegger's thoughts on the idea of a bridge. He writes that a bridge does not merely link the two banks of a river. It gathers the two sides and makes them into a thing, in the old Germanic sense of the word:

a gathering, therefore a place. 'The bridge does not first come to a location to stand in it; rather, a location comes into existence only by virtue of the bridge.' The bridge-place extends on either side of the river into spaces enclosed by buildings: on the western side the little square of Jurcicev Trg, the same width as the bridge, and on the eastern side the narrower street of Pod Tranco, 6.5m-wide and slightly angled to frame a steep view up to the hilltop castle. These spaces of course predate Ple. cnik's bridge, and previously related to the old timber bridge that preceded it. But Ple. cnik's transformation of a route to a place is a brilliant response to context.

On each side, six slim columns with stylised Corinthianesque capitals punctuate the edges of the space, dividing the balustrades into five bays.

The balustrades each return along the riverbank for one bay, tying the bridge into the riverside promenades. On each projecting end of the central support stands a column with exaggerated Ionic volutes, bearing a triple lamp. Everything is executed in beautifully precise cast terrazzo with white marble aggregate. Minimal elements, slightly eccentric in form, and fine craftsmanship - this is understated architecture, and wonderful placemaking.

Joe Holyoak is an architect, urban designer and teacher

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