Address: Carrer de Sant Fermí | SANT CELONI | Spain
Latitude/Longitude: 41.6799, 2.48702
In 1811, during the Napoleonic Wars, the main arch of the “Pont Trencat” was destroyed. No one tried to repair it for almost one hundred and ninety years until 1996, when people from the two villages the bridge links, Sant Celoni and Santa Maria de Palautordera, situated fifty kilometers north-east of Barcelona, decided to create the Associació Pont Romà 2000 in order to raise funds to carry out its restoration.
Archaeological works and documentary research were first carried out in order to obtain the available information about the history and the construction sequence of the bridge. Remains of the disappeared arch were found as well as part of the old paving on both banks. Despite it is said to be a Roman bridge —it is placed on the Roman Via Augustea— we didn’t find any remains of that time.
We are not sure when the existing remains were constructed but documents were found showing that in 1453 important works were made. It is quite likely that the current shape, with its pointed arch, dates from then.
The main issue we had to deal with was about the kind of action we should carry out. Since our goal was to recover its functionality —only for pedestrians— we had to choose between giving the damaged monument its original shape back or rebuilding the missing part in a new way, different from what it looked like before. Since the bridge was destroyed long time ago, nobody knew what it actually looked like before it collapsed. If we had tried to give the bridge its original shape back we would have had to make up all the information we lack.
Also, people were used to seeing its broken shape, its name, “El Pont Trencat”, means the Broken Bridge.
Following the ideas of some famous restoration theoreticians, such as the Austrian Alois Riegl (1858-1905) and the Italian Camillo Boito (1835-1914), we thought it would be better to reerect the missing part with a modern structure in a way that reflected the contrast between the new work and the existing remains rather than trying to make a mimetic reproduction.
Therefore we proposed to restore it in a way that reflects the contrast between the new work and the existing remains, using a modern material —steel— and contemporary construction techniques.
The structure we constructed consists of a two-span box girder deck, 3.00 meters in depth, supported by three pairs of bearings, two at both ends and the intermediate one placed over the crown of a hollow box pointed arch, spanning 24 meters. To emphasize the old silhouette, the parapets of the deck are extended along the remaining structure.
The top line of the new deck and the intrados of the steel arch follow the shape we think the old bridge had so that the new structure tries to evoke the missing silhouette of the original bridge.
The works were divided into three phases. In the first one we consolidated and repaired the existing remains. In the second phase the supports of the new arch, the abutments of the deck and the steel structure were made.
The steel structure was constructed seventy kilometres away, and transported to the side in five pieces; three for the deck and two for the arch. In the third phase the paving as well the street lighting were made.
We think that with our proposal we recovered the bridge’s use, but, in some way, the bridge keeps on being broken.
Contributed by Xavier Font-Alfa Polaris
⇒ Architecture Guide to SANT CELONI
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