Projects of the Klassik Stiftung Weimar are funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Free State of Thuringia, represented by the State Chancellery of Thuringia, Department of Culture and the Arts.
On 12 March 2018, the Klassik Stiftung Weimar was awarded the German Bridge Construction Prize in the category “Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridges” in recognition of its restoration of the historical Swinging Bridge in the Park on the Ilm.
According to the jury, the preservation of the Goethe-era “Swinging Bridge” was a perfect example of how to responsibly maintain Germany’s structural cultural heritage. Thanks to engineers who dismantled the historical structure into its individual elements, and then analysed and experimentally assessed them, it was possible to preserve the original bridge in a completely functional and “swinging” condition. “The result is not a new bridge with a historical appearance, but a largely preserved original which is safeguarded for the future,” commended the jury.
“A reconstruction is never as good as the original,” explained Johann Philipp Jung, director of Castles, Gardens and Buildings of the Klassik Stiftung Weimar and head architect of the restoration project. “That’s why I’m very happy we were able to sustainably merge historical landmark preservation and unrestricted usage in restoring the Swinging Bridge which is so important for the Ilm Park. And naturally it’s wonderful to see our extra efforts rewarded by the German Bridge Construction Prize of 2018.”
The restoration of the chain bridge, built in 1833, was necessary after flooding in June 2013 caused severe damage to the structure. The repair work continued until December 2014, during which the Klassik Stiftung succeeded in salvaging the historical metal suspension bridge in its entirety. In a very time-consuming process, all 100 original, hand-crafted chain links were individually examined and tested for their load-bearing capacity. The researchers ascertained that they all met today’s static, load-bearing requirements. Additional restoration measures included the replacement of the wooden sections and bridge moorings, as well as the restoration of the ramps.
The Court Master Builder Karl Friedrich Steiner (1774-1840) built the Swinging Bridge in 1833 as a “true” suspension bridge after Grand Duke Carl August had designed and completed the landscaped Park on the Ilm from 1778 to 1828. The suspension method in bridge-building was still rather new in 1833. The first iron chain bridge was built in England in 1741, and others were constructed in North America at the beginning of the 19th century. Compared with the conventional, “stable” stone or wooden-plank bridges of that time, the swinging chain bridge across the Ilm River caused such a sensation that it came to be called the “Swinging Bridge” ever since. The Swinging Bridge is part of the “Classical Weimar” UNESCO World Heritage ensemble and is one of the oldest, functional chain bridges in Europe.