Waiting for the River is a 125-foot-long inhabitable bridge, complete with dormitories, outdoor eating areas, and a bathroom, built by Dutch art group Observatorium back in 2010. The project was constructed in anticipation of the newly cleaned and renaturalized Emscher River, whose waters will soon flow through the surrounding landscape.
As the artists themselves describe it: “In ten years time the river Emscher—now a sewer canal between dikes—will be a natural river again… Observatorium symbolizes the anticipation of better times and a better environment by building a covered bridge for a river that is not there yet. We invite people to wait 24 hours.”
As the Art & Architecture Journal Press puts it, the project, made from reclaimed timbers, “sits over the waste land that will be the site of pastoral landscape in ten years time.”
You could thus book a small bed in the dormitory and fall asleep, in anticipation of a future landscape to come.
It’s a kind of temporally inverted High Line: a popular sight-seeing infrastructure constructed in advance of the very thing it’s meant to help the public see.
It is the preparation of the landscape that becomes the spectacle, an otherwise unremarkable spread of fields and small thickets suddenly taking on a sign of impending—but still strangely unpredictable—transformation. Something is meant to happen here, some kind of terrestrial event; the structure exists because of this predicted shift in the earth.
But where exactly the braided meanderings of this future river will go—one that has yet to flow through, and thus format, the landscape—seems too difficult to anticipate. So this piece of architecture simply waits there, straddling what it presumes to be the currents of a future riverbed, its anticipatory landscape tourists fast asleep inside.
The Observatorium’s Andre Dekker will actually be speaking later today—Saturday, 18 June, at 4:30pm—at the Los Angeles Design Festival; hopefully he’ll present a bit more about this project.