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The Bridge IS Place

Rendition of 11th Street Recreation/Arts Bridge. Illustration by Ed Estes. Photo Courtesy DC Office of Planning.

 

 

Living in a city is as much about what happens outside our buildings as what happens inside them. The sidewalks, streets, squares and parks of Washington, DC define the public realm informing us on where we are physically as well as who we are as a community. Whether it is a musician trying to earn a few dollars at the top of the DuPont Circle metro escalator, a string of food trucks along 12th street vying for your patronage or a line of city bikes at the Brookland Metro Stop offering yet another transportation option; the spaces around our buildings should become a series places full of chance encounters and opportunity. The wealth of amenities and experiences throughout DC contribute its character and define our urban quality.

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For many of us living in the District, the city is best experienced by walking. Sure we have cars, ride the bus, take the train or ride bikes; but when we include a barrier between ourselves and our surroundings, we limit our experience and often close off our senses. As we walk we look, listen, talk and sit taking in the sights and sounds which creates those “experiences”. Sometimes a city surprises you and provides something special – a place like no other. Its spaces like these with which you hold in your memory longer and often associate with a city’s quality and value. For example, San Antonio has the river walk. Along the river walk visitors and residents alike enjoy a variety of life and leisure where you can take a river boat ride to take in the sights or leisurely stroll along the walk to window-shop, dine alfresco or take in one of the many festivals. Siena, Italy has the Campo. The Piazza del Campo is arguably the world’s most successful urban spaces as the plaza’s edge active with retail and cafes is balanced with its informal central plaza where children play and its gentle slops encourage causal seating for social interaction and people watching. In DC, we often acknowledge the National Mall as our exceptional and iconic civic space. The Mall, serves as not only the Nation’s “front yard” but it serves as our recreational sports place, our weekend jogging path and our afternoon picnic spot. The strength of these spaces/places is that they provide varied settings for both planned and spontaneous activities.

Rendition of 11th Street Recreation/Arts Bridge seen from the southern banks of the Anacostia River. Illustration by Ed Estes. Photo Courtesy DC Office of Planning.

 

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On March 28th, the Office of Planning presented a new and potentially dramatic example of how we can take an active part in creating such a space/place.

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The 11th Street Bridge (platform only – piers to remain) is soon to be demolished and the residual space leaves the city with a vast expanse of usable space. We, the residents of DC, have been asked to provide ideas for what kinds of life will occupy this space. To create “place”, we must develop a series of unique, dramatic and active programmatic elements to engage residents from both sides of the river. This pre-design activity means that the design is far from set. DC’s new “Recreational Bridge” needs your suggestions. Community outreach meetings, online polls and youth design discussions will set the Bridge’s design parameters or “program” and a national design competition will soon be announced. The winning entry has the potential to bring in a high profile designer or showcase a local talent.

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The success of this place will be from input from more than just Architects and Engineers. Musicians, chefs, painters and performers should all get involved as this space will be for us and should be designed by us. What type of performance stage should be provided? Should there be a kinetic park where children pedal, push and pull various machines to create energy and light up different parts along the bridge? Would an oversized obstacle course for various ages be appropriate? This bridge has the chance to be more than a path, more than place. It’s not that often that we have a voice in such a potentially dramatic and iconic project. It’s easy to participate, just email [email protected] or tweet @OPinDC#REcBridge with your thoughts and suggestions.

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Post provided by the East City Art Editorial Team.

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