Van Alen and the New York City Council have announced the 6 finalists for the “Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge” international competition, in both the professionals and young adults categories. Inspiring participants to rethink the iconic Brooklyn Bridge walkway, the contest gathered short-term interventions and longer-term proposals for a complete reconfiguration of the bridge. The 3 final teams in the Professional category include BIG + ARUP; ScenesLab + Minzi Long + Andrew Nash; and Pilot Projects Design Collective, Cities4Forests, Wildlife Conservation Society, Grimshaw, and Silman.
A symbol for the city itself, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the bridge, crossed by thousands of pedestrians and cyclists every day, was crammed, uncomfortable, and sometimes unsafe. In response to these conditions, the New York City Council and Van Alen Institute “launched the international design competition that aims to spark a new public conversation about New York City’s infrastructure”.
An opportunity to rethink the bridge as a pedestrian-friendly structure, part of the public spaces of the city, the Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge competition tackles primarily the needs of the community. Actually, the Brooklyn Bridge, one of New York’s most recognizable and photographed landmarks, has the potential to serve as testing grounds for equitable, accessible, and sustainable transportation options. The contest encourages also the creation of a healthy and safe environment while generating opportunities for small businesses.
The chosen proposals were selected by an interdisciplinary jury for their compelling and optimistic approaches. In fact, the jury considered the following factors: team composition; accessibility and safety; environmental benefit and security; respect for the bridge’s landmark status; feasibility; and “magic”—i.e. new ideas that surprise, delight, and fascinate. While each team is now working with Van Alen, the New York City Council, local stakeholders, and civic institutions to refine their proposals, on July 23, the public can hear from finalists and cast votes online in a Design Showdown. Online voting will be live July 23–30, and the winner will be announced in late summer.
Read on to discover the shortlisted proposals and their description.
Finalists in the Professional category
Back to the Future
BIG + ARUP, New York
Back to the Future seeks to return the bridge to its original state, both architecturally and functionally, and pilots innovations in autonomous mobility and public space design. By removing cars and related ramps, and providing more space for pedestrians, bikes and transit, this proposal moves more people and creates a stronger connection between Downtown Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan, and beyond.
Bridge X proposes a Brooklyn Bridge that evolves in response to public feedback and adapts from a pandemic to a post-pandemic era. Through a phased approach, Bridge X reimagines the upper and lower decks to reclaim space for greater pedestrian and cyclist access, to make room for vendors and small businesses, and to offer new modes of engagement with the bridge. Digital tools and design interventions enable visitors to more easily access, explore, and reflect on their experiences of the bridge.
Brooklyn Bridge Forest
Brooklyn Bridge Forest reimagines the bridge as an icon of climate action and social equity, improving mobility while respecting the landmark structure. The historic wooden walkway is expanded using planks sustainably sourced from a partner community in Guatemala that protects a 200,000-acre rainforest. A dedicated bike path and reclaimed traffic lane create new space for cyclists and low-carbon transit, while biodiverse “microforests” at either end of the bridge bring nature to New York City, and serve as green spaces for underserved communities.
Finalists in the Young Adult category
Lukas Kugler, New Milford, CT
With sensitivity to different user groups, The Artery creates a contiguous modern transportation corridor between boroughs. On the bridge, the design incorporates designated spaces for vendors and three separate pathways for cyclists, runners, and pedestrians. The substantial incorporation of greenery provides natural borders between these paths, creating an improved experience while encouraging native plants and wildlife to inhabit the bridge.
The Cultural Current
Aubrey Bader and Maggie Redding, Knoxville, TN
Using a brightly colored path and cultural markers, The Cultural Current proposes a fluid integration of surrounding neighborhoods into a transportation and public space network that crosses the bridge. The proposal uses color in a playful way that’s also helpful for wayfinding, reuses existing wood boards and recycled plastic, and plans to phase car traffic off the lower roadway.
Do Look Down
Shannon Hui, Kwans Kim, and Yujin Kim; Hong Kong, Bay Area, CA, and New York
Do Look Down’s installation of a glass surface above the bridge’s girders creates a whimsical new pedestrian space activated through art installations and seasonal programming. The lower roadway is converted into additional walkable and human-powered transport space that also offers opportunities for local vendors and performers. Powered by kinetic paving, an LED and projection system is mobilized to honor the city’s cultures, histories, and identities.