Update on the Hirschgrundbrücke Reconstruction Part II: How Art and Craftmanship are bring the bridge back together.

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GLAUCHAU (SAXONY), GERMANY-  In a follow-up to the last article on the reconstruction of the Hirschgrund Bridge at the Castle Complex in Glauchau, I decided to attend the informational meeting and tour of the bridge, which took place on May 11th at the front court of the castle. This meeting and tour, which was divided up into three different time slots, was part of the Day of Funding and Support sponsored by the State of Saxony, and its main focus is the work that is being done to the castle itself, which started in 2017 and is scheduled to be finished by 2025.  Already finished is the construction of the front court of the castle, which features a series of flower gardens, bike racks, picnic areas and a multifunctional facility that can be used year round, including for ice skating, which is Glauchau’s past time together with its Christmas Market.

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The front court yard of the Castle Complex

This event was also tied in with the city’s first ever arts and crafts fair, which took place inside the castle and included exhibits, workshops and an auction. Due to inclimate weather, comprising of heavy rain and cold weather, the attendance was down across the board. However, we did come away with something for our own best interests- me with bridges, my daughter with arts and my wife with some ideas on how to better the arts and crafts fair. 🙂 Inspite of this, this article is on the bridge itself for based on my meeting with a representative from a construction firm working on the bridge, here are some facts that will need to be taken into account.

For instance, while newspapers and even my own previous reports had mentioned about the bridge being reopened by July, that assumption was proven false, both verbally and on the posters. Right now, if all goes well, the project should be finished and the bridge reopened by the end of November 2019 (this year). There are several factors that contributed to this delay.

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Poster of the project. The upper left-hand corner shows more demo than expected.

The first one has to do with the demolition of the bridge. According to the spokesperson at the meeting, while attempts were made to keep only the foundations and piers of the 1700s- built arch bridge, combined with the two outer arches as part of an agreement with the State Ministry of Culture and Heritage to save them, demolition of the bridge took a little more out than expected as many elements from the original bridge had to be removed because they could no longer be used for the load bearings. That means they were worn out and would not be useful for the reconstruction. A good example of the extensive work on the bridge regarding that aspect can be seen in the picture above.  If this was in American standards, this entire arch bridge would have been completely removed, going against the Historic Preservation Laws that were designed to protect historic structures like this from being destroyed. While the preservation of the outer arches and the piers were a compromise, it should be considered a stroke of luck in the face of modernization, which is becoming the norm in our society, even at our expense.

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With the removal of most of the bridge comes the preservation of more than 12,000 different grey-colored granite stones from the original structure. According to the representative from the construction firm, they will be incorporated, like I mentioned. The question is: how?

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As a facade! 🙂

This would make the best sense especially after my inquiry with the city’s civil engineer who also has been watching this project very closely. As mentioned in the previous article, the bridge is being rebuilt, first starting with the arches, then following with layers of concrete slabs supported by a skeletal system of vertical and horizontal support beams that would hold the bridge in place. The stones from the previous structure would be used as both decking as well as for the facade. While the reconstruction of the arch bridges will not be in-kind, meaning rebuilding it just like building the arch bridge from scratch beginning with the arches and then filling them in, layer by layer, the use of the skeletal system with concrete support beams as a skeleton will ensure that the new bridge will be sturdier than its original predecessor. I learned that in 2004, wooden support beams were put into place underneath the arches to keep them from collapsing. While this would have been considered useless if the bridge was coming down anyway, it did keep the bridge intact, thus helping the construction workers save as much of the materials for the rebuild as possible. Otherwise, allowing the bridge to sit derelict and let it collapse would not only eliminate that possibility, it would have been dangerous to even approach it.

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Granted that there is wooden support for all four of the bridge’s arches for the new structure, yet they were meant for building the two inner arches from the ground up and reinforcing the outer arches- for the former, they were following the recipe Romans used when building their arch bridges during their peak in power.

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Close-up of the truss supports for the arches.

With that comes the skeletal system and the layered concrete, which brings up another interesting fact I learned at the meeting. The vertical beams mentioned in the previous article feature a combination of concrete with steel wiring. This concept is often used for American bridges, in particular, with beam bridges. In Germany, it is hardly spoken of for the majority of modern bridges built after 1945 have focused solely on steel, fabricated from the mills in western Germany as well as parts of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg in the east.  With very few quarries, concrete is used rationally- mainly for abutments, piers and decking- much of it with other materials. In this case, the vertical beams have the American style of steel wiring drowned with concrete with the wiring sticking out. The main purpose here is as the concrete layers are built up, the top layer will be covered with a decking made of stone and concrete, providing a sturdy crossing for years to come.

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Add railings of up to 1.7 meters high to ensure the safety of those crossing it, the bridge will have a width of 3.7 meters and a total length of 55.3 meters from the castle to the park, with LED lighting, making the new crossing an attractive site in addition to the castle itself.  The bridge will be 9 meters tall, a few centimeters taller than its was before the complete makeover started last year.

While there were only a few people at each of the three tours in the morning due to the weather, most were eager to know more about the project and even some of them shared some memories of crossing the bridge before it was closed off due for safety reasons many years ago. Many had a chance to ask the representative more in details about what was being done with the bridge with a lot of curiosity. The atmosphere was mostly positive when I was there. But all had one thing in common- they would love to see their bridge back as it is part of the Castle Complex, connects with the park and is part of Glauchau’s history in general. In November of this year, this will come true.

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fast fact logo There are three projects that are going on around Glauchau’s Castle Complex- all of them being funded by the state. The front courtyard at the castle’s entrance was finished in December, right in time for the Christmas market. The bridge will be finished by the end of November. The third project scheduled to begin in 2020 will be redeveloping the grounds inside the castle as much of the markets and festivals take place there. That project is expected to last 2-3 years.

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T-shirts and apparel with the theme of the bridges along the Zwickau Mulde, with exemplaries of the ones in Glauchau, Zwickau and Rochlitz can be found in the online shop via word press. Click here and order one today. 🙂

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