Bridging the divide?

18 Sep 2012

Visions unveiled for iconic LA bridge replacement

Three designs for a new bridge to replace the aging moderne Sixth Street Viaduct, an iconic river crossing in Los Angeles popularized in film that has fallen victim to erosion, were unveiled last week at the first of four public meetings to be held to elicit community input and to ultimately rally support around a single vision.

The designs are the products of three teams led by AECOM, HNTB, and Parson Brinckerhoff, which earlier this year were shortlisted in an international competition sponsored by the city to select a team to design the bridge's replacement.

"While the iconic bridge will surely be missed, it's loss provides an opportunity to design a new, state of the art span for Los Angeles that will weave a story of community, functionality, beauty, and sustainability into a bridge design that is world class in stature", said City Engineer Gary Lee Moore.

That said, all three schemes call for greater civic engagement of the surrounding area with each incorporating pedestrian and bike paths and activated spaces at grade such as plazas and play areas. Yet, despite these improvements, the designs failed to capture the community's imagination with its leaders describing all three schemes as turning their backs on the neighbourhood by failing to meet basic community needs.

Edward Padilla, president of the Boyle Height's Neighbourhood Council, one of two communities that the bridge connects (the other being the Arts District) said of the presentation, "In their artwork they're really disregarding Boyle Heights".

Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents communities on both sides of the bridge, assured Padilla and the other residents that the designs are preliminary at with greater refinement yet to come. While a winner will not be selected until later this fall, the HTNB team is seemingly leading the pack.

Its scheme, which has a historicist bent and which features a series of 10 arches that echo and multiply the two arches of the current bridge, is described by the local newspaper, L.A Downtown News, as "offering the most wow factor". It is a favourite scheme among those weighing in on social media, with one respondent calling it "the most memorable of all the schemes".

While all three designs are cable stayed structures, the HNTB scheme is the only one to eliminate a central support pylon that juts out of the river.The AECOM-lead team envisions a series of towers capped with golden sculptures- splayed supports meant to convey angels that look like clothes pegs. It is supported by a cable system.

The third and final scheme by the Parsons Brinckerhoff team also calls for a cable-supported structure that features a separated pedestrian pathway that cuts down the middle of the 3500 foot viaduct with car lanes and a bike lane pushed to the outer edges. It is distinguished by two wing-like structures that span the Los Angeles River.

Additional community meetings will be held on 17 and 18 September, and the winner will be announced in late October The project completion is expected in 2015.


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