Footbridge in Litomyšl wins the Czech Architecture Award 2023

The Czech Chamber of Architects announced the Footbridge in Litomyšl, designed by Ehl & Koumar Architekti as the winning recipient of the Czech Architecture Award 2023. As architects of connectivity, bridges stand as monuments to the idea that the public good is best served with paths that bring people together.

This Footbridge in Litomyšl substitutes the original overpass from 1981 and provides a comfortable experience with an elevator, ensuring unimpeded pedestrian access from the Municipal Office to the city center. This upgrade, according to the jury, improves the passage over the bustling I/35 highway, fostering a more accessible and seamless route for the community. The project was led by architects Lukáš Ehl and Tomáš Koumar, whose architectural studio was founded in 2015 as a transformation of Šrámková architekti.

Their designs reflect generosity, distinctive character, and dignity within their designs, emphasising a timeless quality through clear internal logic and proven materials, according to the jury of the Czech Architecture Awards 2023.

A well-designed bridge is a testament to the power of human ingenuity, serving as a conduit for progress, commerce, and the overall well-being of the public. Resonating well with the thought, the Footbridge is designed with a resilient steel framework that delicately rests upon robust pillars designed from exposed concrete. Positioned along the original staircase axis leading to the historic center, the elevator tower not only supports the bridge’s structure but also stands as a distinctive landmark visible from the square through Ropkova Street. Extending seamlessly, the central pillar transforms into a new concrete staircase oriented towards the path to Smetanův dům. On the western approach, the bridge finds support in an abutment embedded within the existing retaining wall.

Utilising a continuous beam structural system, the welded steel bridge features two spans with cantilevered ends. The primary Vierendeel girders, linked by transverse beams, form the superstructure. A spatial 3D Vierendeel girder with an orthotropic deck plate and roof emerges through the repetition of cross-sections in the longitudinal direction, maintaining a modular dimension of 3.07 x 3.07 x 3.07 m in the reinforced concrete elements. The understated elegance of the structure comes to life with Ivana Šrámková’s artistic graphics adorning the elevator entrances and the rear wall of the elevator tower. Precision in girder edges and overall geometry is achieved through HEB beams and welded plates, boasting a cross-section of 220 x 220 mm.

This thoughtful design not only shields pedestrians from inclement weather but also offers a captivating perspective, allowing them to gaze over the Loučná River amidst the treetops. The footbridge’s stainless-steel mesh railing, complemented by a round handle, is coupled with strategic lighting that accentuates the contrast between the lightweight steel structure and the rugged beauty of exposed concrete. The fusion of simplicity and artistry makes this footbridge a functional and aesthetic marvel in the urban landscape.

“Neither boastful nor retiring, the bridge is exactly what is needed at this precise location, and provokes neither questions nor vague second-guessing about intention. There is simply nothing more to it, which is a rare quality these days. Still, the bridge has not been built in a vacuum. On the contrary, it is the result of the political and visionary continuity of this small city. In Litomyšl, the current and former mayors meet with the long-time city architect and brainstorm strategies for the city on a monthly basis. This is one of the reasons why Litomyšl harbours such a rich collection of significant contemporary architecture,” evaluates the Czech Architecture Award 2023 Jury.

The committe of the Czech Architecture Awards had a distinguished panel of seven internationally acclaimed experts carefully evaluated 241 projects, spanning a spectrum of scales, programs, and implementation processes—a comprehensive snapshot of the evolving landscape of architectural innovation in the Czech Republic.

Each year, the selected projects stand united in their profound appreciation for contextual nuances, be it historical, urban, or environmental. The Czech Architecture Awards serves as a competitive platform showcasing the pinnacle of Czech architectural excellence. The Czech Architecture Awards not only accentuates the visual and technical merits of the nominated projects but also delves into the contextual aspects of their construction and structure – including their integration with the surroundings and the social advantages they bring forth. Each architectural marvel within this eclectic array makes a distinctive and indispensable contribution to both the built environment and the community of the Czech Republic.