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The View at High Tide: Normandy's Mont Saint-Michel New ...

The View at High Tide: Normandy's Mont Saint-Michel New Walkway and Pier

The high tides of September 2014 are an ideal opportunity to discover the new bridge built by Dietmar Feicthtinger Architects, which was opened to pedestrians in July. In several months, after the disappearance of the old causeway, the famous rocky island of Mont Saint-Michel will definitively recover its maritime character. On September 9th at 8:21

The new Mont Saint-Michel bridge in Normandy, France.  Photo credit: Mathias Neveling.The high tides of September 2014 are an ideal opportunity to discover the new bridge built by Dietmar Feicthtinger Architects, which was opened to pedestrians in July. In several months, after the disappearance of the old causeway, the famous rocky island of Mont Saint-Michel will definitively recover its maritime character.

On September 9th at 8:21 p.m., Mont Saint-Michel was an island. Due to the high tides, this mythic, rocky Norman island was surrounded again by water the next evening at 9:05 p.m. With tide heights reaching 113% and 115% of their average height, it is even easier to imagine the site’s near future, when it will recover its maritime nature, resulting in a more natural state. This goal has taken twenty years to achieve, and it was done in several steps. While the first studies were launched in 1995, the causeway, which links the island to the continent by cutting across the bay, will disappear in a few months. Today, at the end of three years of construction work, one of the plan’s key elements is finished: the new structure linking the island to the mainland, which was designed by the Dietmar Feichtinger Architects agency. It has been open to pedestrians since this past July, and will be open to all vehicles beginning in October. The construction of the area around the foot of the mountain is in the process of being completed.The new walkway leading to the island of Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France

Light and Discrete

While Dietmar Feichtinger and his entire team made the trip to witness the high tide, the architect stressed that the structure is neither a bridge nor a walkway, strictly speaking. In fact, this new 1,085 meter long causeway and 756 meter long pier is viewed as an extension. This part ends several meters from the site’s entry on a concrete platform which will be completely submerged under water for about twenty days a year. Moreover, the structure is open to sustainable and motorized transportation. It “is very much a real roadway that is capable of supporting the passage of 38-ton trucks,” noted the project manager who won honors for the structure in 2002.

In addition to all of this, there are shuttles which will allow tourists to reach the monument of Mont Saint-Michel from the new parking lots. The shuttles weigh approximately 20 tons when fully loaded. “The problem was therefore to build a light and discrete structure – because here the main attraction is the mountain – yet it needed to be capable of bearing heavy weights and their braking activities, and it also needed to be “open to the water,” in other words it would have to not obstruct the flow of the water,” he continued.

Resulting from the convergence of technical demands and the approach towards the landscape, a long simple, curving strip of a bridge was born. The walkway allows you to approach the site without ever having to let it go out of view. The pier was built of steel, and is made up of a of a thin passageway resting on 142 vertical columns of a small diameter (25cm), but of substantial thickness. These “legs” are anchored in concrete pillars which go down 35 meters beneath the ground to reach rock. Costing 31 million euros, the new bridge, whose contracting is carried out by the Syndicat mixte de la baie du Mont Saint-Michel, will be inaugurated in autumn.

What are some other examples of contemporary architecture which display sensitivity to the natural environment?

Original article, originally published in French, here.

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

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Marcus Khoury is a recent graduate of the University of California Los Angeles, where he obtained a B.A. in French & Francophone Studies. Aside from his native Michigan, Marcus has lived in several states, in addition to France and Chile. Owing...

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