The Northern Ave Bridge Competition: MPA’s Entry

The Northern Ave Bridge Competition: MPA’s Entry

By Rui Miguel Ribeiro.

May 13, 2016 – The MPA competition team is a fluid, flexible collection of people that want to keep expanding our design experience and building stronger relationships within the office. By entering competitions, we can work on project types we don’t typically get to – with people we don’t necessarily work with every day. The Northern Avenue Bridge Ideas competition immediately generated buzz around the office because everyone was familiar with the project and its history.

We started as a large group in our discussions and even took advantage of the warm weather to go visit the existing bridge at lunch time. Eventually, the team became Kelsey Bridge, John Greene, Josh LaBeau, Jon Neal, and me. At first, we each came up with our own ideas and presented to them to each other. While all very different on the surface, we identified the partial reuse of the existing bridge and connection to the water as common features that were important to us all. Through a few 3d models, sketches, and late nights, we simplified our concept and form into our final submission.

Using the existing bridge as inspiration, we began to focus on the central node as a historical center piece and decided to create a passive gallery around it. The lookout extends from there to provide additional views of the harbor and a timeline displaying the history of the Boston skyline. Lastly, we proposed an invitation of artists to reuse nonstructural portions of the existing bridge to populate a public sculpture garden that extends the length of the bridge. Over and around these programs is a continuous circulation path that provides connections between the greenway, harbor walk, and Children’s Wharf Park.

Our “thesis statement” for our presentation board was as follows:

“Intertwining the connection between History, Art, Engineering this bridge works to mend the urban tissue that seems disconnected between the two districts, the seaport and downtown. The design focuses on 4 main elements: Revealing, Recalling, Reconnecting, Reusing, to create an entirely new public space.”
Our board is below – click for a larger image, or download a full sized PDF here! Or, just scroll down for inline reading.

Bridging History: Through Art + Engineering

Intertwining the connection between History, Art, Engineering this bridge works to mend the urban tissue that seems disconnected between the two districts, the seaport and downtown. The design focuses on 4 main elements: Revealing, Recalling, Reconnecting, Reusing, to create an entirely new public space.

-REVEALING. The path peels back to reveal the structure of the old bridge, the reveals form circulation and act as destination points for seating and viewing. Allowing the viewer to pause and reflect.
-RECALLING. Positioned as a central focal point in the design, the drum is reminiscent of the old bridge, a void left after its removal. The circulation spirals around the drum, evoking the movement of the bridge, allowing the viewer to circumvent the drum. This works in combination with images and text recalling the engineering feature that once was.
-RECONNECTING. In order to mend the existing circulation, the bridge acts as an integral connection between the Harborwalk and the Greenway. Using a mixture of Soft scape and hardscape to blend the environment of the two paths, while the bridge tiers in elevation to allow for increased accessibility along the shores.
-REUSING. Repurposing what was to remain of the bridges truss system, it acts as a gateway from the historic downtown of the Boston, opening towards the constantly evolving seaport district. From what couldn’t be repurposed structurally is given to local artists to form into sculptures along the bridge path. Memorializing the materials that are interpreted into a contemporary form of art curated from the public.

History Diagram – The bridge takes a turn, hinging out from the drum, it slopes up to a viewing platform overlooking the Boston Harbor. Imprinted on the glass are a timeline of sketches that give a glimpse to the past, while remaining transparent to respect where it is today

GATEWAY – a portion of the historic Northern Avenue Bridge stands tall; repurposed as a sculptural gateway from downtown to the new bridge and reference to the scale and engineering of the time.

LOOKOUT – The lookout reaches toward the Atlantic, serving as a destination and area to view the Boston harbor both as it stands and as it has changed over the years via marked locations and etched skylines.

PATH- the connection serves as both destination and path. There are meandering and direct routes across to serve a variety of pedestrian traffic and activity, whether commuting or visiting.

GARDEN – the public space will provides a new gathering location for the expanding Seaport population as well as a sculpture park. Artists from near and far will be asked to display their sculptures made using portions of the Northern Avenue Bridge that are no longer used.

GLOW – the underside of the pedestrian bridge will light up to serve as a beacon in the channel and increase visibility. This creates a safer, more welcoming bridge that ensures this will be the preferred path to the seaport and proper extension of the greenway.

GALLERY – using the existing drum and putting the mechanics of the old bridge on display at the center, a destination is created. Here, historical drawings and information regarding Boston’s engineering history, including the Northern Avenue Bridge, will be on display on the glass walls of the passive gallery.

PORTAL- the tissue between the Fan Pier Park and the Children’s Wharf Park, the Portal continues the harbor walk and completes the Seaport waterfront. The floating level continues this connection and provides area for docking, recreation and circulation. Openings in the bridge allow light to penetrate and an aural connection to the activity above.