Collaborative work between artist and architect, Pedestrian Strands is a quasi-permanent installation on four bridges in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. Renovating the decks of these bridges was intended to extend the usefulness of the bridges for another ten years, after which full replacement will be required and the re-application of Pedestrian Strands reconsidered. At the insistence of the Downtown Council and the Crossroads Community Association, these renovations were to include increased attention to the pedestrian experience.
More photographs following the break.
Architects: el dorado inc Location: Kansas City, Missouri, USA Lighting Designer: James Woodfill, Inc. Client: Downtown Council of Kansas City | City of Kansas City, Missouri, Public Works Photographs: Mike Sinclair
Renovating the decks of these bridges was intended to extend the usefulness of the bridges for another ten years, after which full replacement will be required and the re-application of Pedestrian Strands reconsidered. At the insistence of the Downtown Council (business association) and the Crossroads Community Association (neighborhood/business association), these renovations were to include increased attention to the pedestrian experience.
Primary challenges included fitting a budgetarily modest project into a place of bigness (highway, civic ballrooms, an arena, skyscrapers, a digital newspaper printing facility) and smallness (grassroots entrepreneurial businesses, micro-scaled retail, 5000 sf turn-of-the-century building fabric) while creating the potential for an intimate experience for pedestrians moving across a bridge. Furthermore, the project had to occur within the space typically reserved for a bridge guardrail. All elements of the project required approval from both the Public Works Department of Kansas City and the Missouri Department of Transportation.
Pedestrian Strands is an attempt to orchestrate the dissonance typical of formerly contiguous urban environments disrupted by highways in the 1960’s and the resultant disconnect between evolved building types, businesses and identities on other side. It is a careful composition of chain link fencing, glass panels and LED light fixtures. Existing site conditions – highway signs, cars, buildings from both sides of the highway – are folded into the overall composition. No particular view is preferenced over another.
Two scales of chain link fencing, sometimes overlapping one another to create a moray visual effect, offer a subtle reinterpretation and embrace of a common bridge guardrail building material.
Photographic abstractions of significant adjacent buildings and signage structures embedded in glass panels present an intimate view of usually inaccessible things due to scale or distance. Polished glass creates mirror-like surfaces that reflect buildings, people, signage, headlights and the immediate condition of the sky. When combined with the simultaneous transparency of glass an abstracted site is compressed into a tidy, accessible visual field on the scale of a pedestrian.
Locally manufactured, custom LED fixtures are occasionally installed between the flanges of guardrail posts to create an ambient night experience distinctly different from the daytime environment, yet equally rich.
The sun and LED fixtures most dramatically activate Pedestrian Strands as a participant in Kansas City’s contemporary urban environment. The harnessing of light effectively amplifies the presence of a modest addition.