Transportation Infrastructure and Civic Architecture #3: Rhode Island Avenue Pedestrian Bridge to the Metrorail station
Gateway Wings, New York Avenue Bridge Gateway, designed by Kent Bloomer Studio. To my eye, this design is roughly equivalent to the intellectual heft of the Real Housewives tv programs.
I have written quite a bit about the failure of many transportation agencies to take seriously their responsibilities for the aesthetic qualities of the infrastructure they build or fund ("DC's bad urban design as it relates to new transportation infrastructure"). One such example is the horrid "sculpture" on the New York Avenue Bridge ("I think this is hideous: metal sculpture on the New York Avenue bridge").
In these writings including "Transit, stations, and placemaking: stations as entrypoints into neighborhoods," I recommend that transportation agencies have a "Chief Design Architect" and an urban design/landscape architecture division responsible for bringing higher quality attention to the aesthetic elements of transportation projects. Also see "Transportation bridges as an element of civic architecture, urban design and placemaking
It's not always that agencies are constructing projects with poor aesthetic qualities. Sometimes it's the failure to think big and do something distinctive and special. Plus, they can only go so far.
Transportation agencies are focused on achieving mobility objectives and after a certain point, to get better aesthetic outcomes, local communities, not the transportation department or transit agency, will have to pay for the extra costs associated with aesthetics.
Still, a greater focus on achieving high quality aesthetic outcomes simultaneously with transportation mobility improvements can make a big difference and contribute positively to neighborhood branding and identity, further contributing to the return on investment from urban revitalization and other economic development initiatives.
I argue that such an approach yields much higher ROI and much greater velocity in terms of improvement, like what the NoMA Metrorail station has done as discussed in the immediate two entries, or the streetcar on H Street, despite all the implementation failures ("DC and streetcars #4: from the standpoint of stoking real estate development, the line is incredibly successful and it isn't even in service yet, and now that development is extending eastward past 15th Street).
A perfect example is the Rhode Island Avenue Metrorail Pedestrian Bridge, which like the proposed pedestrian tunnel from the east side of the NoMA station to the entrance on the west side, was an important access improvement for people living on the northeast side of the Metrorail station. Before they had to walk considerably farther to get to the station. Now they don't.
MBT-Rhode Island Ave Metro bridge. Flickr photo by airbus777.
But compare that bridge as a final product to the High Trestle Trail Art Bridge in Madrid, Iowa. The visual impact is so much more significant, not just during the day, but at night. Imagine a pedestrian bridge and transit station platform canopy both having attractive architectural lighting treatments at night.
It borders on ludicrous that Washington, a city built on planning and distinctive architecture, can be outspanned by places like Madrid, Iowa or the I-35 Bridge in Waco, Texas when it comes to leveraging the value of night time lighting as an element of transportation infrastructure and civic architecture.
Waco bridge on I-35.
Similarly, the underpass at the Rhode Island Metro Station could be distinctively treated as well, such as the Tunnel of Lights underpass public art project by Bill FitzGibbons in Birmingham, Alabama.
That would be a one (bridge) - two (Metro canopy) - three (underpass) punch. And like how I suggest that DC should treat the bridges across the Anacostia River as a system ("Anacostia River and considering the bridges as a unit"), this would treat the architectural elements of the Rhode Island Metro Station as an integrated system also.
Labels: branding-identity, civic assets, cultural landscape, landscape architecture, public realm framework, transportation infrastructure, transportation planning, urban design/placemaking, urban revitalization