South African architect Sumayya Vally pays homage to the Congolese horticulturist Paul Panda Farnana in his design concept for a pedestrian bridge in Vilvoorde city, in Flemish Brabant, Belgium called Asiat-Darse. She connected a series of boat-like shapes integrated with plants as a way to embody Farnana’s legacy.

Vally, who is the founder of the architecture studio Counterspace, called the horticulturist “one of the most important, yet least acknowledged figures of the city” who “epitomizes the region’s complex relationships with past and future generations of migrant bodies and communities.” She said, “I was deeply moved to uncover the story of Paul Panda Farnana through our research, which then drove our response to the city’s brief for a pedestrian bridge.” 

Vally added, “Trained as a horticulturist at the Vilvoorde Horticultural School not far from the site, this project will revive Farnana’s legacy by foregrounding the concept on the species explored in his research, alongside water architectures from the Congo.” Designed in collaboration with engineering studio AKT II, Asiat-Darse takes inspiration from the water architectures of the Congo for its sculptural form, referring to the dugout canoes that line the banks of the Congo River.

As such, a series of curved boat-like forms tied together will give the bridge its undulating structure, and each doubles as a planter to promote “seeds to be spread on the wind.” Alongside the bridge will also be a collection of smaller boat-like forms, again filled with plants, and each will be named after Congolese laborers that will be discovered during project research. The Asiat-Darse is estimated to start and complete construction in April 2024 and December 2025, respectively. 

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Images courtesy of Counterspace