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Kaarsild

The temporary solution of the Kaarsild (Arch Bridge in English) has today become a barrier to restoring the Kivisild (Stone Bridge in English). If the Kaarsild were suddenly to disappear, then efforts would immediately focus on restoring the Kivisild.

Kaarsild was built in 1959 by ‘Sillarong 807’ based in Leningrad - today the company ‘K-Most’ continues to build bridges in Tartu. The stumps of the Kivisild were retained and buttressed with concrete to support the pedestrian bridge, yet allow for future reconstruction of the Kivisild. Written in large letter across the plan of the Kaarsild are the words ‘projekteeritud demonteeritav’ meaning ‘planned to be taken down”. The reinforced concrete bridge was built on land and rolled into position. Early in the 1990’s, Postimees, an Estonian national newspaper, entertained a crazy idea that the Kaarsild could be lifted by helicopters and moved to some other location.

Disturbingly the Kaarsild has come to be seen by many as a ‘symbol’ of Tartu, with people citing fond memories of (drunken) students walking its arch after graduation. This is excusable, as for a long time the conception of the original Kivisild was wiped from popular memory. With better promotion the idea of the replica Kivisild could invite the drunken students climb the chains of Kivisild triumphal archs and slide down chains on the other side. A more aggressive campaign would even try to rename Kaarsild more fittingly as “Betoonsild”, meaning Concrete Bridge.

Architecturally the Kaarsild is a violent contrast with the classical architecture of the town hall square. In fact it is the greatest eyesore of the Soviet past in the old downtown and an insult to the memory of the Kivisild and the gracious lines of a Tartu city which focused on the Emajõe river before the II World War - when Tartu was known as “Athens on the Emajõgi”.

 

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