Grand Avenue Park Bridge

Everett, Washington

Project Size:

Bridge length: 210 feet

Project Status:

Completed 2020

Services:

Transportation Design, Urban Design

Selected Awards

2020 AN Best of Design Awards

Infrastructure, Editors' Picks

The Grand Avenue Park Bridge illustrates the power of how architectural thinking can elevate the civic potential of fundamental infrastructure. As our country embarks on a new era of infrastructural reinvestment, the Grand Avenue Park Bridge is a case study in the transformational impact of holistic design, inclusive engagement, and attention to craft brought by architects to some of our nation’s most pressing civic design challenges.

Long separated from its active waterfront, the City of Everett conceived a project to connect critical utilities and pedestrians from the Northwest neighborhood to the city’s developing waterfront district. The topographic and infrastructural obstacles were significant – an 80-foot-tall critical slope, an active commercial railway, and a state highway created major barriers between the city and its waterfront, prohibiting pedestrian access over a three-mile stretch of bluff.

Early engineering studies called for a utility and pedestrian bridge spanning the railway and highway, with an uphill bridge abutment set deep into the hillside along Grand Avenue Park.  The implications of this plan were significant and risky, particularly regarding the extended excavation into the unstable, critical slope. Moreover, the resulting uphill elevator – designed to create an accessible experience from the bluff – posed a significant construction risk and would obstruct views westward from the park.

The architect’s design for the new bridge solves these challenges in an integrated solution, yielding an unusual new accessible experience weaving pedestrian ramps and stairs above, around, and inside a sloping truss that connects to a single elevator and stair on the waterfront side. Across its 257-foot span, the new bridge navigates the physical obstacles while preserving views from the park above without the need for an uphill elevator.

The design is pragmatic and economical. The form and materials of the structural truss respond directly to its programmatic needs, recalling the character of traditional railroad trusses found across the Pacific Northwest using weathering steel. Wrapping around and running through the truss, a digitally fabricated bare-aluminum guardrail system serves as the bridge’s wayfinding, safety, and lighting systems, contrasting with the weathered steel truss. The resulting visual composition is a formal counterpoint of muscular and delicate, rustic and refined, symmetrical and asymmetrical.

The experience of the bridge is one of discovery, revealing views both inward and outward along its varied pathway. The bridge functions as an extension of the park, bringing the life of the waterfront into the City through its inviting character. The bridge has become a prominent destination in Everett, augmenting the pedestrian character of the adjacent neighborhoods and waterfront. Through its design and impact, the Grand Avenue Park Bridge serves as a catalyst for continued revitalization and a demonstration of the City’s commitment to its community and environment.