Der Planer

In the background, but no less important

Markus Sigrist ensures that the wooden bridges are preserved for future generations. A Project Manager in the city of Lucerne's Civil Engineering Department, he is responsible for maintaining the wooden bridges.

The planning bridge warden

Markus Sigrist bears a high level of responsibility for the wooden bridges. He talks about his work in the following interview.

Markus Sigrist, what does your job involve?

Markus Sigrist: My job as a Project Manager in the Civil Engineering Department is very varied. I ensure that people can safely pass through, over or under all engineering structures on municipal land – from bridges to supporting walls, embankments and slope retaining structures. I also manage road projects.

What do you do for the Chapel Bridge and the Chaff Bridge?

We make sure that they are kept in good condition in order to preserve them for future generations. This includes planning maintenance work.

Is it an office or an outdoor job?

My job is project management; I coordinate and manage. I spend 80 percent of my time in the office and 20 percent outside for approvals and inspections.

I ensure that everyone can cross the wooden bridges safely.
Markus Sigrist, Project Manager in the Civil Engineering Department

What is special about the bridges?

Their age. And the fact that everyone has a claim to them, from the local residents to the many tourists to the Environmental Protection Department to the numerous animal residents and their representatives. There are a great many needs to take into account, which makes it all the more important for us to properly maintain the bridges.

What is it like having a tourist attraction on your to-do list?

I do have in the back of my mind the fact that half the world is watching what we do. The media hype has subdued somewhat now though. It has become established that I do something every two to three years, and that is a good thing. In 2015 we retiled the roof, then we renovated the northern portal, and soon it will be the turn of the southern portal. The Monument Preservation Department also has faith in our work, which I appreciate a lot.

What are the biggest challenges?

Properly maintaining the bridges. This means working both above and under the water.  We inspect the piers and beams from below by boat. Every two to three years, divers check the condition of the piers under the water. That is actually where they are best preserved, as they never come into contact with the air and therefore cannot rot. Safety also plays a very important role. On occasions we have had to build complicated provisional structures because the bridge has to be accessible at all times. What is more, there are a great many stakeholder groups to cater to and keep informed.

Can you give an example?

We work closely with the Monument Preservation Department and Lucerne Tourism. In addition, there are a large number of associations and environmental organizations promoting the welfare, for example, of fish, bats and birds. There are also tenants on the Chapel Bridge, and private individuals are often interested in our work.

The critical part at the level of the water's surface is like tooth decay. Sand and water currents constantly wash against the stone piers and eat away at the wooden ones.
Markus Sigrist, Project Manager in the Civil Engineering Department
Every three to five years...
... the bridge piers in a bad condition are renovated in the water. The next renovations are expected to take place in 2022.

What was your most special experience in connection with one of the bridges?

When we renovated the Chaff Bridge in 2018, we discovered that the structure was sagging in the area of the arched girders on the Mühlenplatz side. We therefore had to lift the entire bridge from below by around 10 centimeters using hydraulic presses in order to take the pressure off one of the arches and repair its abutment. It was very exciting from a technical perspective.

What do people often forget in relation to the bridges?

That they constantly have to be cleaned. What with the birds, mosquitoes, spiders’ webs and dust, they can quickly end up rather grimy in the summer. The problem, however, is that you can’t just organize a quick cleaning day like you would at home. Even finding an appointment is far from easy. We have a window of just one-and-a-half months a year for larger maintenance jobs.

What makes you particularly happy?

Good solutions, and when the various committees I work with show faith in me.

Bird control
Bird deterrents and a feeding ban
Pigeons and sparrows badly contaminate the wooden bridges with their droppings. Here is how the city of Lucerne deals with them.

Birds’ eggs are removed immediately

Bird and spider feces on the artworks and inflammable spiders’ webs are the biggest challenges when it comes to maintaining the bridges. The team run by Markus Sigrist, Project Manager in the city of Lucerne’s Civil Engineering Department, has therefore installed a bird deterrent in the form of an electrified wire that prevents pigeons and sparrows from nesting. In addition, the cleaning team removes any eggs that have been laid during its tours of the bridges.

No feeding

Since the birds always have access to plenty of food, they nest the whole year round. “Sometimes they even lay eggs on the bare wood,” Markus Sigrist says. However, a single nesting place can cause contamination over a large area. “Unfortunately, bird droppings are very corrosive to the artworks and to wood and stone in general,” he adds. For that reason, the city of Lucerne regularly puts up posters informing passers-by that feeding the pigeons is not a good idea.

They make sure that Lucerne’s wooden bridges continue to shine in all their glory