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Bridging Differences?

DW staff (als)
January 29, 2008

Dresden's mayor said the city aimed to downsize a controversial bridge under construction that, in its original design, could prompt UNESCO to strike the city off its list of world cultural heritage sites.

A computer simulation released by Henry Ripke Architekten of the Waldschloesschenbruecke
City officials hope a slimmer version of the bridge will let the region keep its UNESCO statusImage: AP

Dresden mayor Lutz Vogel unveiled plans this week to scale down the bridge already under construction to prevent the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) from taking his city of it list of World Heritage Cultural sites.

The mayor said the plans for the bridge have been revised by Eberhard Burger, the building director who oversaw the reconstruction of the Dresden's Frauenkirche, which was destroyed in World War II during Allied bombing of the city.

A bulldozer beginning construction on the bridge last November
Construction on the bridge began last NovemberImage: AP

The new design will reportedly make the bridge appear lighter, more dynamic and less bulky. Burger said the new bridge would blend in more harmoniously with the Elbe River Valley landscape.

While changes in the original design are possible, "those expecting a miracle, however, will be disappointed," Burger added.

Vogel said that, for its part, UNESCO was not interested in being actively involved in the process of redesigning the bridge.

Mixed views on construction

Vogel said the bridge's width would be reduced by one meter (3.3 feet) to 23.4 meters over the Elbe River.

The bridge's pillars, which rest on the river banks, will also be reduced by a meter -- or 60 percent -- in size by omitting stairs for pedestrians that were part of the original plans. Other features are also supposed to be altered.

Construction of the four-lane bridge began in November last year amid controversy and protests, particularly by nature conservationists that it would endanger rare horseshoe bats that inhabit the area.

Dresden's old city along the Elbe illuminated by a red glow
Dresden is famous for its striking skylineImage: AP

While many residents of the city have favored the project because they believe it will ease traffic congestion, others have expressed their concern that the city will lose its World Cultural Heritage Site status -- which has been a major draw for thousands of tourists each year.

UNESCO threatened to take Dresden off the heritage site list because its committee said the character of the city, dubbed as the "Florence of the Elbe," would be compromised. Last June, it also placed the Elbe Valley -- dotted with gardens and palaces -- on a list of "endangered sites" that are under risk of losing their status.

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