Context The eastern docks area of Amsterdam is a motley assemblage of diverse buildings and situations: gigantic cruise ships that tower above the city, railway yards, 19th-century cargo sheds and warehouses (with their present-day complement of artists' and media studios), passenger terminals and a clutch of new housing developments. Industrial functions alternate here with recreational, cultural and housing functions. This diversity of experience and constant variation in scale characterizes the area and forms the context of the Jan Schaefer Bridge.
The Bridge The Jan Schaefer Bridge spans the 200-meter-wide IJ harbour, provides access to and from Java Island and extends the traffic artery leading from the city centre to the water's edge. This route, which runs over the Mariniers Bridge and under the railway viaduct, culminates in boring through a piece of industrial history, the De Zwijger warehouse. It is here that the Java Bridge begins and that one suddenly becomes aware of the breadth of the IJ inlet.
The abrupt changes of scene and the build-up tension turn the Jan Schaefer Bridge section into part of a series of cinematic experiences. This is most strongly felt in the passage through the warehouse. In between the images seen before and after this stretch, another intermediate image intrudes itself, like a shock event or comparable to the effect in a film when the camera suddenly "cuts" or "pans" to another subject or story.
The bridge's shape also generates a multiplicity of experiences. A spaghetti-like cluster of connections splits the bridge into several different traffic flows that rise and fall according to the relative speed of the form of transport concerned. As such, the Jan Schaefer Bridge is "many bridges in one": pedestrian bridge, cycle bridge and high-speed motorway between island and mainland.
Instead of a heroic span that celebrates technology, the design of the Jan Schaefer Bridge is an asymmetrical interweaving of rearing and sinking. As a consequence, the futuristic and organic bridge is not merely an instrument, but also seems to lead a (almost animal-like) life of its own. With its extended tentacles and fiendish jaws, the Java Bridge is reminiscent of a "Jesus Christ Lizard" (a reptile that walks on water). But just as rapidly the perspective changes and the bridge eludes too unambiguous an interpretation. Elegant or awesome: its appearance turns out to be a matter of viewpoint. Although an integral part of the city's infrastructure, the bridge is also at heart a stubborn object. A newcomer to the area; an alien.