by Afra SafaOct 06, 2021
September 19, 2021, marks the fourth year since the deadly 2017 Puebla earthquake hit Mexico, leaving the central city witness loss of hundreds of human lives and widespread infrastructure damage. Closer to the epicentre of the 7.1-magnitude earthquake, various smaller towns suffered sizable damage; one of which was Jojutla de Juárez – a municipality in the state of Morelos, Mexico, cleaved north south by the Apatlaco river. With over 73 lives lost to the 20-second tremor, the town saw considerable collapse of homes and infrastructure, particularly the damage to its economy harbinger - the local market and its iconic bell tower that turned into debris.
OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture) New York studio is progressing on the development of a pedestrian bridge over the Apatlaco river that got severely affected by the earthquake. As per OMA New York, the houses built on its edges had collapsed due to weakened structure; the major drainage line of the city running over it suffered persistent fractures; open spaces, that would otherwise serve as open public parks and amenities, were left behind; and pre-existing lack of access to cross the river was exacerbated by the destruction of a main bridge, severing mobility.
Originally designed by the studio in 2018, the bridge featuring a bent in the middle, is conceived akin to a large I-beam form, revealing the image of a double-decker concrete structure. Led by architect and OMA New York partner, Shohei Shigematsu, "the bridge facilitates a much-needed link between currently disconnected communities, creates a new commercial axis, and transforms the riverbank into a rehabilitated zone of activities in an effort to transform the Apatlaco river into a community resources rather than a threat."
“We are beginning to face natural disasters more frequently and the wide-ranging impacts demand more public spaces and resources to be integrated into resiliency design. In the wake of Mexico’s recurring earthquakes, the Jojutla Bridge aims to restore infrastructure as well as the spirit of community,” says Shigematsu in an official announcement released on the project’s development. “Its two datums,” he continues, "simultaneously reconnect not two, but three fractured neighbourhoods, anticipate disasters beyond earthquakes by mitigating potential flooding, and provide new amenities to revitalise people’s relationship to a river that’s currently feared or overlooked.”
Bisecting the river twice and avoiding contact with private properties, the Jojutla thoroughfare is pivoted to three unique points of the city - Panchimalco, a colony south of the municipal capital; the blocks at the bottom of Pacheco alley, in close proximity to the historic centre; and the Juarez neighbourhood, the most central but most damaged by the earthquake.
The upper deck of the bridge offers substantial shade for the pedestrians and bicycle path below while its unobstructed layout favours a future opportunity of turning the space into a linear park or a market. As per OMA, this intervention could make the bridge a commercial axis connecting disparate communities. Spanning the complete length of the bridge, the openings of the perforated I-beam web double as "undefined spaces, benches, stairs, and doors, accommodating a diversity of activities, pace, and access". The fenestrations tie the bridge to its surroundings as it frames stunning views of the landscape around.
Connecting the eastern zone and downtown Jojutla, the bridge, which is part of a larger reconstruction effort by Infonavit, entered the fundraising development phase on September 19, 2021. The anticipated completion of the project is yet to be announced.