Respecting history

The Old Sava Bridge was built by the German Army during the Second World War. It is the only bridge in Belgrade and one of the very few major European bridges that actually survived the war. The detonations placed by the retreating Germans were cut by local hero Miladin Zaric. This history gives the Old Sava Bridge a special place in the memory of the Belgradians.

The current bridge provides narrow passage for cars and trams, with a pedestrian lane on one side. It has been extensively renovated only a few years ago, but is definitely not fit for the anticipated significant growth of traffic, both mechanical and pedestrian. We have been inspired by the wish of the Belgrade planners to retain and rejuvenate this venerable structure and make it a national model for sustainable urban infrastructure. Our design challenge is to retain the historical essence of the old bridge, whilst upgrading it to the demands of the twenty-first century.


Boosting the image of belgrade

Bridges are symbols of civilisation and ambition, of progress and endeavour. They are amongst the most powerful images of cities, often with impressive structures, triumphs of engineering, with constant flows of traffic. In the twenty-first century however they are not just about crossing obstacles anymore. Nowadays bridges are evolving into destinations in their own right, for pedestrians and cyclists. Around the world cities enhance their profile and tourist appeal by connecting and upgrading their pedestrian public spaces. By their nature bridges are highlights in these networks. Belgrade is delivering its share of public space at Sava Promenada in the Waterfront project. With our design the pedestrian realm is extended even further, over the Sava Bridge and directly connected to the park on the other side of the river.




Developing the concept

For us it is most important to make the bridge more attractive for pedestrians and cyclists. We propose to add a new level, on top of the existing structure, away from the noise of traffic. The central arch span is lifted and connected to either quayside with a new lightweight pedestrian deck, staircases and elevators. Evidently we also incorporate the required significant enlargement of the bridge. Sturdy car traffic decks are added on either side of the old bridge. They provide the much needed extra road capacity. The approach spans of the existing bridge will be used for public transport only in future. The result is highly sustainable, as practically all of the existing bridge structure is re-used, with a minimum of new materials needed. Obviously this is beneficial for the required budget too.


Making a destination

The arch of the Old Sava Bridge and the new pedestrian decks on either side provide the perfect background for a magnificent garden in the sky, a great place for chatting and meeting with friends, whilst enjoying expansive views over the city. The great arch of the old bridge becomes a wonderful urban room for people instead of a passage for trams and cars. The currently sober and functional bridge is transformed into an attractive destination, enhancing the image and identity of Belgrade.



The design

Like at the old bridge, the new decks too are designed in steel with a sober, yet refined detailing. As the new and existing parts of the bridge merge in several places, we propose to give the entire struc- ture one new colour. A cool bluish grey, blending everything together and providing the right restrained background for the elevated garden and its many visitors to shine. The new pedestrian deck is made of sustainable and very durable Accoya wood. The plants and trees are placed in deep planters, with a water feeding system ensuring the plants survival in all seasons. The result is a total make-over of the old bridge, with full sympathy for its original sober and functional expression.


We call it Sava Bridge Plus.

TypologyFixed bridge, transformation
LocationBelgrade, Serbia
ClientEagle Hills, Belgrade
ArchitectsSyb van Breda, Ruud Burger, Bastiaan Luijk, Nicolai Waterdrinker, Tom de Weijer