Zubizuri Bridge, Bilbao, Spain

Santiago Calatrava
Date Built
Completed 1997
Zubizuri 48007
This footbridge over the Nervión River in Bilbao has a number of names.  The official one on the blue plaque is "Zubizuri" which is Basque for "white bridge".  The architect's website refers to it as the "Campo Volantin Footbridge" but many residents call it the Calitrava Bridge after its designer.  The architect's website adds that it is, "... a strikingly modern pedestrian crossing of the Neruion River estuary, midway between Bilbao's Parque Etxabarria and City Hall and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. The bridge has a total span of 75 meters (246 feet). Its principal structural element is an arch that is 15.3 meters deep (50 feet)."

Calatrava's website describes the bridge as featuring a, "... tilted steel arch .... (that) appears graceful and slim as it crosses the Nervión River. Its sweeping parabolic form is echoed in the plan of the glass-surfaced deck, giving the bridge a pronounced contrast of materials. The translucent deck has a tighter radius than its supporting cradle, which is reinforced by a gently inflected steel tube. The tube, placed at right angles to the embankment, is audaciously carried by concrete arms that extend from the approach structure."

The glass walking surface can still be seen on the ramps that provide disabled access to the bridge. 

The glass surface proved rather slippery on rainy days, of which Bilbao averages 128 a year.  The solution was to lay a non-slip mat over the glass panels.

The Barcelo.com website tells the story of the next controversy to affect the bridge that took place in 2006.  ".... local authorities partially modified the Zubizuri Bridge. The alteration consisted of cutting one of the metal bars to install a walkway linking it to the nearby Isozaki Towers. This work, which according to the City Council was for general interest because it improved pedestrian traffic, led to a lawsuit filed by the architect. The Biscay Provincial Appellate Court ultimately ruled in favour of Calatrava, stating that “general interest does not take precedence over the architect’s moral rights”. The court also stated that Calatrava’s creation had been modified when the Isozaki Atea walkway was added because its architectural style did not match that of the Zubizuri Bridge. Calatrava won the battle against the Bilbao City Council, sparking an interesting debate, among citizens and courts, on what should take precedence: general interest or a project’s original aesthetic."

Calatrava sought €3million in compensation but was awarded a modest 30,000 € which he donated to charity.  The extension remains in place.  It can be seen in the images below indicated by the red arrow.