As European cities grow and densify, there is an increasing demand for available urban spaces.  These are unfortunately becoming scarcer for the very same reason, which highlights the need for outside-the-box thinking about presently available structures.

Bridges and tunnels are often overlooked in this regard, as they are seen as entirely utilitarian aspects of current infrastructure. And while they are indeed essential for urban mobility and connectivity, their potential can be utilised far more efficiently without losing focus on sustainability issues.



Bridges and tunnels are structures that create various types of spatiality. They normally strengthen the city and its mobility network by breaking barriers. But in other cases, they may weaken these networks by creating other barriers or empty, dark wastelands in surrounding areas.

Bridges and tunnels should no longer only be considered structures that facilitate transport; rather, the areas they occupy and the spaces they create should add further value to the city and its citizens.

The Urban Insight report “Redefining bridges and tunnels for the next generation of our cities” highlights several good examples of how spaces near bridges and tunnels can be used to further benefit citizens.

We already have the necessary technology, expertise and materials in place to design and build more efficient infrastructure – constructions that are both multifunctional and attractive. It is also apparent that creative solutions present advantages from many perspectives. What benefits one group in society can easily add further gains for others.



The Cap at Union Station is a commercial and industrial project that reconnects downtown Columbus, Ohio with the Short North Arts District.

Pedestrian traffic from the convention centre to the other side of the highway was minimal, making it difficult for businesses to survive. In 2002, the bridge was extended and rebuilt to connect the districts using proper walkways. This also created new areas for storefronts.



Tunnels need to be safe and rescue operations often rely on openings between tunnel tubes. Separate rescue tunnels are needed even in situations where there is insufficient traffic to warrant two separate tubes. These rescue tunnels are empty 99.99 per cent of the time and are therefore a very expensive solution. Is there a solution for using the tunnels when they are not being used for escape purposes?

A light rail line running in a 3 kilometres long tunnel under Bergen, one of Norway’s seven famous mountains, is in the planning stages. This city tram line needs to include a second tube for potential evacuation. The owner of the light rail line and the municipality have agreed that the second tube will be used as a cycle and pedestrian passage and regional roller ski arena. The tunnel will provide perfect year-round weather conditions, while continuous use will make it a safe and secure environment.

Additional case studies can be found in the full Urban Insight report “Redefining bridges and tunnels for the next generation of our cities”.



A citizen’s perspective is essential in all phases of this type of infrastructure projects. In practice, this will include an ongoing and constructive dialogue on how the public spaces will be used. Well-planned spaces attract users, who in turn attract additional users. Only by including the intended users’ perspective is it possible to turn bridges and tunnels into more efficient mobility systems that enhance quality of life.

Whether the initiative comes from private citizens, city planners or others, engaging users in the planning adds a 360-degree perspective, making it easier to take social, environmental and economic aspects into consideration. This reduces potential conflicts between parties with different agendas.

There are often synergies to be realised, as opposed to treating city development projects as a zero-sum game. Identifying benefits as well as beneficiaries also serves as a basis for project financing.



Based on our experience and a broad range of case studies, we recommend a 5-step methodology for developing spaces near bridges and tunnels.

  1. Map areas: Map areas under elevated structures in selected city or district.
  2. City analysis: Produce a general city analysis to identify overall city structures and people flow.
  3. Citizen dialogue: Engage citizens and users in dialogue focusing on their needs and wishes.
  4. Design proposal: Produce a redesign proposal (permanent or temporary).
  5. Finance the project: Identify benefits and beneficiaries as a basis for funding sources.

For additional case studies, insights and conclusions, please refer to the Urban Insight report: REDEFINING BRIDGES AND TUNNELS FOR THE NEXT GENERATION OF OUR CITIES