Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Bagley Pedestrian Bridge in Detroit, Michigan by inFORM studio
July 22nd, 2011 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: inFORM studio
A significant community in Southwest Detroit, Mexicantown, has a unique locational strength and history, having attracted immigrant Mexican families to the area since the early 1920’s. The community is adjacent to the Ambassador Bridge which connects the U.S. to Canada and is the largest border crossing in North America. The heart of Mexicantown, along Bagley Avenue, is defined by a restaurant district, retail, a youth center and a variety of cultural enterprises. Additional landmarks present in the area include Ste. Anne de Detroit Church; the Michigan Central Station; and the city of Detroit skyline.
The cohesiveness of the community was abruptly interrupted in the late 1960’s by the introduction of two interstate highways, I-96 and I-75, which bifurcated the community in an effort ease congestion from the Ambassador Bridge. Subsequent community out-migration and land erosion, due to General Services Administration (GSA) expansions, have furthered blight and decline in the region.
In 1998 a competition, sponsored by the Ambassador|Gateway Steering Committee, was commissioned to design a new pedestrian bridge to establish a re-connection along Bagley Avenue and to serve as a signature gateway presence into the U.S. from Canada. The competition was part of an Environmental Impact Study submitted to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in order to mitigate the damages caused to the community by the original highway developments and to be a part of a much larger infrastructure improvement known as the Ambassador|Gateway Project.
The principal purpose of the Ambassador|Gateway project, as set forth by the steering committee, is to improve access to/from the vehicular bridge linking Detroit, MI to Windsor, ON, through highway expansion and interchange improvements. Given the context of the competition, the initial criteria was to provide an elevated pedestrian bridge, rising 15.5 feet clear of the adjacent service drives.
The winning competition scheme, as part of this multi-million dollar highway interchange expansion, began in a web of conflicting political, social and financial agendas. Land acquisition rights, expenditure and budgetary concerns, traffic shifting, structural considerations and general posturing led to the development of numerous proposals and shifts in methodology to accommodate the changes. Throughout this process, the design remained true to the philosophy set forth in the original competition entry which identified and preserved the context of the project while remaining sensitive to the adjacent community.
The final design proposed a more comprehensive scheme, including an at-grade landing at both the East and West aprons and approximately 41,000 sq.ft. of public plaza, which blended into the landscape and reconstructed the existing void as programmed, occupiable plaza space. The bridge would act as a mediator to the adjacent city and community landmarks which speak to the notion of place at various scales.
Each of these landmarks; The Ambassador Bridge; Michigan Central Station; Ste. Anne de Detroit and the Detroit skyline; has its own symbolic significance to the nation, state, city and community. The morphology of the Bagley Avenue Pedestrian Bridge responds to the each alignment through a series of apertures, juxtapositions and orientations during the processional experience over the bridge. The recognition of these landmarks as part of the journey reinforces the intent beyond simple proximity and adjacency.
inFORM studio is a Woman-owned, WBE certified, design based practice with three offices in Detroit, Michigan, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and New York City. Each office is fully integrated and collaborates with teams set for each project that span all three locations.
Formed in March 2000, Van Tine|Guthrie Studio of architecture quickly earned a reputation for the progressive work of the three principals, Michael L. Guthrie, Kenneth R. Van Tine, and Gina Van Tine. The firm has received continued peer recognition and community attention for design excellence in acquiring numerous state and local AIA Honor Awards, authoring the winning entry for the Bagley Street Pedestrian Bridge as part of the $120 million Michigan Department of Transportation Ambassador Gateway Project and in June of 2003, was selected as one of eight international finalists out of 1,557 entries to present at the Grand Egyptian Museum Competition Symposium in Cairo, Egypt. In 2004 the firm was invited to participate, as one of 30 firms from around the world, in the prestigious Canadian Museum of Human Rights competition and recently received an honorable mention in the world-wide competition for the Museum of Contemporary Art and Planning Exhibition in Shenzhen, China. In late 2010, a 2-phase international competition involving 47 firms from around the world was held to select an iconic pedestrian bridge design for the city of Providence, Rhode Island. The proposal submitted by inFORM studio was selected as the winning entry and is slated for completion in 2013.
In an effort to pursue a higher level of research and immerse our practice in an environmentally sustainable approach to every project, the firm formally changed the name to inFORM studio in early 2007. In March 2011, inFORM studio was selected as AIA Michigan Firm of the Year.
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