Friday, October 06, 2006

About the Pont Bir-Hakeim

It was in 1878, for the Universal Exposition, that an original metal footbridge was built on either side of the Ile des Cygnes, and called the "Passy footbridge". It was much used by the inhabitants of the 15th and 16th arrondissements. However, to meet the needs of the Universal Exposition of 900, plans were drawn up to replace it by a bridge combining a railway and a road. In late 1902 a competition was organised by the Metropolitan railway and Seine Navigation departments for a two-tier bridge, with a road bridge on the lower level comprising two lateral roadways separated by a central walkway and, on the upper level, the metropolitan railway viaduct supported by metal columns resting on the central space.

The author of the project was Louis BIETTE, in association with the contractors DAYDE and PILLE. Formige, a Paris municipal architect, was responsible for the decoration. He hired three sculptors; Gustave Michel, who produced the cast iron groups aligned with the piers at the arch springs. There are two groups, one representing "boatmen", the other "ironsmith-riveters". For their part, Coutan and Injalbert are the authors of four allegorical figures decorating the structure on the Ile des Cygnes.The Pont de Bir-Hakeim is in fact comprised of two unequal metal structures, each comprising three cantilever type spans, separated by a monumental stone structure on the upstream tip of the Ile des Cygnes. The metropolitan railway viaduct on the top rests on a series of elegant pillars, whose highly ornate decoration unfortunately disappeared when the structure was strengthened from 1930 to 1940.

Called the Passy viaduct until 1948, the work was renamed the Pont de Bir-Hakeim to commemorate General Koenig's June 1942 victory over Rommel in the Libyan desert.

It is now included in the supplementary register of historical monuments.

Louis BIETTE, assisted by THOMAS, engineer, and FORMIGE, architect


Construction date
1903 - 1905

Total length
237 m

Usable width
Lower level: 24.70 m
Central walkway: 8.70 m, two pavements of 2m, two roadways of 6 m.
Upper level: 7.30 m

Road bridge
Two structures with three spans of 30 m, 54 m, 30 m for the large branch and 24 m, 42 m and 24 m for the small branch linked by a monumental gantry (abutment common to both bridges) on the Ile des Cygnes. Bridge arches made of metal girders of variable geometry. The centre spans are cantilevered.

The Pont de Bir-Hakeim was the site of much artistic activity. Cast iron motifs: grotesque masks, scallops.

Decoration of the piers by Gustave Michel. The two groups are reproduced four times, one of boatmen (1), the other of ironsmith-riveters.

Sculpture on the stone abutment one the Ile des Cygnes representing Science and Labour by Coutan, and Electricity and Commerce by Injalbert.


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