STREETS & BRIDGES/Bridge meets aesthetic and structural criteria
When Wichita, Kan., decided to replace the historic Douglas Street Bridge, city officials were careful to balance structural and aesthetic criteria. “[Replacing one] of the oldest bridges in Wichita’s historic downtown district would require a great deal of tact, considering all the various constituencies that would want input,” says Wichita Public Works Director Steve Lackey. The city also was operating under an initiative to incorporate art into public projects.
The bridge connects the rest of Wichita with its revitalized downtown. (A downtown renewal project had transformed abandoned warehouses into an entertainment district with a $65 million science center.)
To jump-start the project, the city initiated an international design competition. Design teams were to include an engineer, an architect, a landscape architect, a public artist and an historian. Ultimately, Wichita officials chose locally based Professional Engineering Consultants to oversee the project.
The design team went to work, collecting ideas from the arts community, government agencies, corporate and civic leaders, historians and private citizens. It then gathered a coalition of engineers, construction experts, artists and consultants to combine input from the various groups and make a final design proposal.
The Douglas Street Bridge had to be especially attractive because it is such an imposing structure and can be seen from many vantage points within the city. Consequently, it features abstract sculptures to add an artistic element to downtown. Additionally, the bridge had to accommodate five lanes of traffic with walkways on either side. Plaza spaces were built under the bridge on both sides of the river.
The city had required competing design teams to enhance the river’s usability, so the bridge was arched to maximize the clear height from water level. It also was designed to minimize the depth required to span from pier to pier.
At walkway level, the bridge was enhanced with precast concrete panels. The pathway surface is composed of concrete pavers and poured-in-place concrete in an undulating pattern that suggests movement.
Made of anodized aluminum pipe, the guardrails are meant to resemble the spars on an airplane or ship. Colors and forms are designed to blend with the bridge’s surroundings.
Structurally, the bridge presented challenges. Because it is roughly one-quarter as wide as it is long, the horizontal components needed to be offset by equally dominant vertical elements. Two stainless steel, 60-foot-tall towers serve that purpose.
The Douglas Street Bridge and the nearby Lewis Street Bridge were completed in time for the city’s popular annual River Festival.
The Ottawa County (Mich.) Board of Commissioners and its Planning Commission have created a County Planning Library to serve planners, elected officials and residents interested in addressing planning challenges. The facility consists of books, videos, audiocassettes and periodicals from land-use planning sources.
The Board of Commissioners appropriated $4,000 for materials for the library, and the state Department of Natural Resources provided a $300 Community Forestry Grant to assist with the purchase of resources related to tree conservation. The library also will contain information on transportation, urban affairs, rural preservation, historic preservation and the environment. It includes past planning studies, statistical information about the county and model zoning ordinances.
The Planning Commission is working to register the library’s resources with the Lakeland Library Cooperative so residents will be able to search and reserve its materials from any library in the county. For information about the library, contact Mark Knudsen at (616) 738-4852.