Symbols of Reconstruction, Part 2: Peace Bridge

by Yoshie Sako, Staff Writer

Cars and buses roll by as pedestrians hurry home. Evening falls on Peace Bridge, which spans the Motoyasu River. It is around 7 p.m. and the lights of buildings begin to glow. In downtown Hiroshima, which shines with illumination, the railing of the bridge, symbolizing the sun, evokes the idea of life reaching strongly upwards.

The railings of Peace Bridge were designed by Isamu Noguchi, a prominent Japanese-American sculptor. They were completed in 1952, three years after the establishment of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial City Construction Law. Architect Akio Nishikiori, 71, was a third-year junior high student when the railings were constructed. "The railings had a very unique shape," Mr. Nishikiori said, recalling his surprise at first seeing them. "Though I was young, I thought they were wonderful and would become a symbol of Hiroshima."

The unique bridge is now growing old and has cracks on its concrete surface. The City of Hiroshima is planning to build two pedestrian bridges in 2014 alongside Peace Bridge to reduce the congestion on that route.

The width of the pedestrian bridges will be 7.9 meters wide, compared to the current width of 1.8 meters for the Peace Bridge sidewalks, where people barely have room to pass one another. "With the new pedestrian bridges leading into Peace Memorial Park, an increasing number of people will stop to look at the revived city," Mr. Nishikiori imagines.

Gazing up the Motoyasu River from the east side of the bridge, trees line both sides of the river and the A-bomb Dome is visible beyond the trees. Below runs the river, where so many lives were lost on August 6, 1945.

Historical Note
Peace Bridge consists of two bridges, east and west, located on Peace Boulevard. The two bridges symbolize "Life" and "Departure" and were designed by Isamu Noguchi. Mr. Noguchi represented the sun at the end of the railing on the eastern Peace Bridge by using a sphere cut in half. The western Peace Bridge suggests the keel of a boat traveling to the land of the dead. The citizens of Hiroshima initially expressed some resistance over the novel designs and high design fees.

(Originally published on July 28, 2009)