06-15-09

The Bridge Project Charrette

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For more info on the Bridge Project event, please visit:  www.clevelandbridgeproject.com

Every year, graduate students at the CUDC take part in a community design charrette, which addresses the urban design needs of a particular site or neighborhood in Northeast Ohio. This year’s charrette will be part of the Bridge Project scheduled for September 25th and 26th.

During a typical charrette, students are asked to gather relevant data about the focus area in preparation for a community meeting where stakeholders and residents share their thoughts and desires for the neighborhood. The students then work along side CUDC staff to quickly develop design solutions and assemble presentations for the community. In years past, the student charrettes have focused on downtown Lakewood, the Jewish Community Federation site, the Howard Street corridor in Akron and Youngstown’s Oak Hill neighborhood.

trolley_front1During this community design [build] charrette, the students will be asked to consider the role of infrastructure in a depopulating city. Cleveland has far more roads, sewers, and power lines than are needed to meet the demands of our current population. Case in point, the Detroit Superior Bridge (aka the Veterans Memorial Bridge or the High Level Bridge). This massive two-level bridge across the Cuyahoga River was the biggest structure of its kind 100 years ago. Originally, the top level was used for cars and pedestrians, while the bottom level was for streetcars. The streetcar line was closed in 1954 and the lower level has not been used since.

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What remains is a vast, cathedral-like space suspended over the river with views of the industrial valley, downtown, and the Flats (click here for photos). As the lower level of the bridge is re-opened to the public for the two-day event, the role of the design students is to develop a program and a range of temporary uses for the bridge that will enable this vestigial space to function as a community resource. The charrette will be a design/build exercise in which the students will have two weeks to develop schematic designs, then the most compelling ideas will be selected and constructed rapidly, full-scale at the bridge.

The free bridge event will include installations and performances by local artists organized by event partners including the Ingenuity Festival, the Cuyahoga RAP, Cleveland Public Art, and the Flats-Oxbow Association. The design students will collaborate with artists and other community stakeholders to develop design concepts that question potential uses for the bridge. What ammenity is the area missing that could be located within the bridge? Could this covered space be opened up as a rain shielded public walkway over the river? Could specialty retail stores be inserted within the bridge? Could a portion of the bridge be made available as a unique downtown venue for weddings and corporate events? Or could this expasive space be used as a truly world class convention hall? If you have an idea for how the bridge could be programmed for the two-day event or for how this vacant infrastructural space could be given a long term use, please comment on this post and share your thoughts. We hope to gather community feedback on programming ideas for the bridge before classes begin in August in order to give the students a jump start on designing and building the interventions.

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Generally, students don’t have a chance to see how their designs affect real people. The Bridge Project charrette will be unusual in that regard. During the event, students will have an opportunity to observe the ways that people inhabit the design interventions. The students will be given the opportunity to interact directly with the public as a way to evaluate whether their work is successful.

We hope you will be able to collaborate with us on this project by sharing your vision for the bridge’s future use and then joining us to experience the concepts realized during the event.

by david jurca

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