London, jolly old land of hated-on “floating paradise gardens,” horrific glass-bottomed walkways and fabulously far-out conceptual pedestrian spans, has been stealing the bridge-related spotlight as of late.

That’s why I’m happy to be sharing an innovative bridge project not out of Great Britain but in the Spanish port city of Barcelona. The project — a redevelopment initiative and not a new-build — transforms an otherwise unexceptional and unattractive work of infrastructure into something, well, special: a solar-powered, vegetation-clad, smog-combating, pergola-topped, glow-in-the-dark span that, true to its original function, accommodates car traffic but also encourages local residents to linger and hang out for a spell.

The bridge in question, Sarajevo Bridge or Pont de Sarajevo, may seem an unlikely candidate for such an extensive facelift.

Located in the largely residential St. Andreu district in the northeast of the city, the bridge is at a remove from Barcelona’s heavy-traffic pedestrian tourist zones. In terms of providing a pedestrian-friendly ambience, Sarajevo Bridge offers very little. In fact, you couldn’t get more grimy, noisy, unappealing as Pont de Sarajevo is a motor vehicle bridge that spans another, larger roadway, not a body of water or scenic gorge. In this instance, that other roadway is Avinguda Meridiana, one of Barcelona’s most important — and most congested — thoroughfares. Basically, it’s a bridge with sidewalks that was built to move cars, not to be pretty.

But despite its somewhat out-of-the-way locale, Sarajevo Bridge is actually somewhat of a landmark — a high visibility work of infrastructure that, despite its humdrum appearance, says you’re here: located above a hard-to-miss Benvinguts A Barcelona signage, it’s one of the first things that motorists see as they exit the tangle of freeway north of the city and proceed into the heart of Barcelona along the six-lane Avinguda Meridiana.

Sarajevo Bridge, Barcelona

Sarajevo Bridge, Barcelona. (Screenshot: Google Maps)

Sarajevo Bridge, Barcelona

Sarajevo Bridge, Barcelona. (Screenshot: Google Maps)

Sarajevo Bridge, Barcelona

Sarajevo Bridge, Barcelona. (Screenshot: Google Maps)

This is why architecture firm BCQ has been tasked by the Barcelona City Council to transform the bridge into a proper gateway — an attractive, welcoming and statement-making “vegetal gate” that serves as both eye-candy for those traveling along Avinguda Meridiana and an greenery-bedecked urban plaza for area residents.

Although not the most visible new feature of the Sarajevo Bridge overhaul, the addition of photocatalytic concrete — a type of self-cleaning, titanium dioxide-infused concrete that absorbs and breaks down harmful air pollution — is the most notable. Sparked by direct sunlight, the photocatalytic process neutralizes organic pollutants and converts them into benign compounds such as water and oxygen. Remaining pollutants are simply washed away by the rain.

What’s more, the concrete will boast phosphorescent qualities (embedded “glow stones”) allowing the bridge to emit a faint green glow when the sun goes down. LED lamps provide the bridge with a steady source of non-ambient illumination. The lamps will be powered by an on-site solar array.

As for the all-important greenery, the new Sarajevo Bridge will be positively dripping in it thanks to the addition of lush vegetated walls and vine-covered pergolas. The addition of plants on and around the bridge will further help to absorb noise and air pollution while also creating a shady hang-out spot for local residents.

Sarjevo Bridge, Barcelona

Rendering: BCQ Arquitectura

Sarajevo Bridge, Barcelona

Rendering: BCQ Arquitectura

“Plant walls improve the quality of the urban landscape and give continuity to recently created new green areas at both ends of the bridge," the team at BCQ tells Dezeen. “It enables better interaction between pedestrians and vehicles, provides the space with vegetated arcades and changes the image of the bridge to distinguish it as one of the gates of Barcelona.”

Although backed by the city government, the Sarajevo Bridge redevelopment project doesn’t have a set start or completion date at this point.

Via [Dezeen], [Wired UK]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.