Plaka Bridge is a single arched stone bridge built in 1866 on the river of Arachthos in Epirus, Greece, with an arch span over 40 m and 20 m in height. It is considered one of the largest stone bridges in the Balkans and the largest and most impressive in Epirus and thus it has been listed by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture as “a work of art that deserves the protection of the state” and as a “historical monument”. On the 1st of February 2015, during a heavy storm that caused overflow of the river, the biggest part of the main arch and the east middle pier of the bridge collapsed.
The project’s scope was the anastylosis, restoration and enhancement of the bridge, along with the highlighting of its tangible and intangible values, as well as the integration of the restored monument into the natural landscape, the social and cultural life of the community and the international scientific community. The completion of the restoration and anastylosis project has been identified as a symbol of the concern of the Greek nation to overcome the painful years of the recession. The project was the very first anastylosis of a stone bridge in Greece - and one of the rare similar projects globally. It was the successful outcome of an exceptional interdisciplinary collaboration and research that have made quite an impact on the scientific community by offering a wide range of expertise.
The project underwent the following stages:
i) Preliminary interdisciplinary study based on a detailed documentation of the monument, following the international principles and Greek legislation, offered by the National Technical University of Athens with the collaboration of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture,
ii) preliminary work on the site, providing access and supporting the remains of the bridge, while rescuing the fallen fragments from the river, preparing underwater foundations,
iii) formation of the riverbed and preparation of the construction site,
iv) scaffolding and arch support, conservation of the remains and anastylosis by using original quarries for the stone and the same materials and techniques as the original structure,
v) construction of sidewalls aside the river bed and finally removal of the arched mould and monitoring of the bridge’s response.
The participants involved in the project are: The Ministry of Culture and Sports, the Ministry of Infrastructure, the Ministry of Finance, Prefecture of Epirus, the National Technical University of Athens and the Technical Chamber of Greece. The budget of the whole work was 5,800,000.00 euro. The Region of Epirus contributed with an amount of 100.000 euros and a sponsor from Epirus with an amount of 100.000 euros. The anastylosis of the Plaka Bridge was inspired by the strong demand of the Greek people and has contributed to their morale to face challenges with success, based on the cultural heritage values.
Sustainability of the project:
i) Environmental, using natural, traditional materials in the construction,
ii) Social, since the society has embraced the project,
iii) Cultural, because traditional methods and knowledge are regained and disseminated,
iv) Financial, since it attracts visitors, as an architectural and historical landmark.
The construction methodology and the traditional techniques of Plaka Bridge are part of the European Cultural heritage, having been used for centuries in South-East Europe. The acquired knowledge and experience from the project is already spreading through publications and conferences at an international level.
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