North Avenue Bridge Design Chosen in Chicago

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Â?Elegantly SimpleÂ? Scheme Selected from International Field

Competing against an international design field, a team of PSA-Dewberry architects recently won a prestigious design competition to replace the aging North Avenue Pedestrian Bridge in Chicago, Illinois.

PSA-Dewberry’s lead designer, Christopher Frye, submitted a scheme for a forward-looking structure—notably different from the existing bridge—that will serve as a distinctive gateway to the city for visitors approaching downtown Chicago along Lake Shore Drive from the north. The bridge will provide a vital link between Lincoln Park and the popular North Avenue Beach, transitioning as an integral park element from the expansive green space to the sandy shorefront.

A series of low terraces set at the eastern base of the bridge along North Avenue Beach will serve as a gathering area for bikers and pedestrians. The bridge is designed as a highly sculptural structure that will work harmoniously with nature. The path of the bridge and its canopy are shaped to track the movement of the sun as it rises over Lake Michigan and sets below the western skyline of the city.

A trellis, composed of a series of reflective metal louvers and photovoltaic panels, will create a self-sustaining “sail” that will provide energy for the bridge’s lighting, effectively becoming a beacon for this gateway into the city at night.

The span’s superstructure across Lake Shore Drive will be constructed of precast concrete sections. Cast-in-place concrete, allowing for sculptural shaping, will be used at the lakeside base. Designers noted that the monolithic nature of concrete was appropriate to the shore’s sand dunes, while the airy trellis will allude to the grasses growing within the sand along the lake’s edge.

The design competition was sponsored by the Chicago Department of Transportation. The city anticipates that construction will begin later in this decade.

In reviewing the winning entries, Chicago Tribune Architecture critic Blair Kamin stated, “The winning design by [PSA-Dewberry], with its sweeping, dune-inspired concrete deck, would make an elegantly simple but visually rich transition between the green spaces of Lincoln Park and the sand of North Avenue Beach. Yet it is no one-liner. The lakeside base of the bridge would offer terraces where crowds could sit and a canopy equipped with solar panels that might generate electricity to light the bridge at night. The design would thus be a living embodiment of ecologically sensitive, ‘green’ architecture. It took courage and vision for city transportation officials to select this plan.”

About PSA-Dewberry

PSA-Dewberry is the building services affiliate of Dewberry, a nationally ranked consulting firm. Based in Peoria, Illinois, PSA-Dewberry employs approximately 260 architects and engineers, with additional offices in Chicago and Naperville, Illinois; Dallas, Texas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Boston, Massachusetts; and Fairfax, Virginia. The firm’s expertise includes criminal justice and public safety complexes, K-12 schools, higher education facilities, libraries, hospitals and healthcare facilities, recreation and wellness centers, and other civic and commercial buildings.

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