Sixth Street Bridge L.A. Times Editorial

April 26, 2010 § 2 Comments

The central span of Downtown L.A.'s 3600-foot-long 1932 Sixth Street Bridge - during the 2008 LA River Kayak expedition. Photo: High Country News

Lewis MacAdams and Alex Ward have written a very good L.A. Times editorial on replacing the ailing 1932 Sixth Street Viaduct – one of downtown L.A.’s most iconic historic bridges. The piece is entitled Beauty and the bridge and here’s an excerpt:

Currently, $200 million from the city’s Prop. 1B bond — about half what it will take to replace the bridge — has been set aside for the project. A draft environmental impact report has been completed, and a final report is expected soon. The Bureau of Engineering and its consultants have introduced five design alternatives, most of which attempt to replicate the current bridge’s signature arches. But not one of them comes close to equaling the current bridge’s singular drama. None of the designs has drawn much enthusiasm from the Bureau of Engineering’s neighborhood advisory committee, from the American Institute of Architects or from the Los Angeles Conservancy. None of the designs has stirred anybody’s blood or grabbed anybody’s imagination.

All over the Earth, bridges are important symbols of their metropolises. Everyone knows the Rialto Bridge in Venice, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Golden Gate. Bridges rightfully come to symbolize a city’s aspirations, its hopes and dreams.

Ours is an age of magnificent new bridges. In the past decade a new era of artistry and technical mastery has yielded a new generation of brilliant structures. The next time you’re trolling the Internet, check out Ben van Berkel’s Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam, Christian Menn’s Bunker Hill Bridge over the Charles River in Boston and Santiago Calatrava’s Sundial Bridge that spans the Sacramento River, the newest tourist attraction in Redding. Look at L.A.-based Buro Happold’s Mobius Bridge in Bristol, in Britain. All are different, all are amazing. The specific style of the replacement bridge is less important than assuring that the design be unique, appropriate and iconic.

To promote the highest level of design, Los Angeles should hold an international design competition juried by bridge design experts with strong local participation.

I think that the design competition idea is a good one. During her recent trip to Los Angeles, New York City’s transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan spoke of the sucesses that NYC has had with these sorts of competitions – not only do they produce excellent designs, but they foster a broader civic dialogue about the project.

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