The Eiffel railbridge in Bordeaux saved by proceedings for listing

1. Gustave Eiffel (1832- 923)
Passerelle Saint-Jean, 1858
After an old postcard

27/6/08 — Heritage — Bordeaux, Passerelle Saint-Jean — After having been threatened with immediate demolition by the RFF (Réseau Ferré Français-French Rail Network), this bridge which was recently abandoned has just been saved by the Ministry of Culture which has decided to institute proceedings for its listing. This extremely unusual procedure consists in interrupting any demolition work and enables the monument to be protected as if it were listed for one year, during which time a case can be prepared for an official appeal of permanent protection (and can be carried out with the agreement of the owner or, without if the listing is declared official automatically).

2. Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923)
Passerelle Saint-Jean, 1858

Built in 1858, this bridge was Gustave Eiffel’s first construction project. The lobbying by the engineer’s heirs was decisive (see their blog) but it was mainly thanks to UNESCO that things have taken a positive turn. The international organization in fact threatened to withdraw Bordeaux from the World Heritage List if this work of art was destroyed, forcing Alain Juppé, the mayor and a former Prime Minister, to become actively involved. As often happens when a monument is to be demolished, those in favour of doing away with it had come up with a figure of 22 million € needed for its restoration, an exaggerated overestimate.
Nonetheless, UNESCO is still upset (correctly so) by several other cases in Bordeaux : the demolition of the Pertuis bridge, another very interesting metallic work (see this blog) and the planned construction of a lift bridge (Bacalan-Bastide) which it judges will mar the landscape. Let us remember that a listing by UNESCO carries with it certain obligations in respect of the local heritage. This would no doubt be an unprecedented case if Bordeaux, having obtained the long-sought honour in 2007, were to lose it one year later.

For once (and we hope this will now become the rule), the director of French heritage, Michel Clément, should be commended for his zeal in saving the Eiffel bridge.
In concluding, however, we regret that neither Alain Juppé nor UNESCO have taken any interest in the staircases of the building on rue Tournon (see article in French on La Tribune de l’Art) ; the ramp of the one on the right has been eliminated on each of the floors and the arches in the cellar ripped open in order to install the machinery for the planned lift, without waiting for the ruling which is to be handed down next Tuesday evening and the lack of any construction permit…

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Didier Rykner, dimanche 29 juin 2008

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