|Worldwide architecture competition focuses on High Bridge in Washington Heights|
|Written by Gloria Pazmiño|
|Tuesday, March 08, 2011|
“Ripple Effect,” designed by a group of architects from Philadelphia, won the first place prize for the redesign of the High Bridge. The model featured a waterfall and rain water pools.
Northern Manhattan is rich with architectural wonder. We boast examples of this from the Art Deco buildings of Inwood to the tip of the Cloisters, to Audubon Park Historic District, and all the other structures in between.
Among them is the High Bridge, connecting Manhattan to the Bronx about 140 feet over the Harlem River. It’s the oldest surviving bridge in New York City, and it’s getting an imaginary facelift at the hands of architects and talented designers.
HB:BX was the name given to an international competition to design an arts center that culturally reinforced the physical connection between Manhattan and the Bronx. The competition, hosted by the Emerging New York Architects committee (ENYA) in cooperation with the Bronx Museum of Arts and the local organization Artists Unite, was designed to draw awareness to the current efforts to restore and reopen the bridge.
During a presentation Tue., March 1 at the Community Board 12 Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee meeting, representatives from ENYA showcased the winning submissions, whose modernistic design and futuristic concepts sparked discussion among the attendees about the possibility of building such projects.
Other designs incorporated additional structures to the High Bridge providing a space for art display and other cultural activities.
Elizabeth Lorris Ritter, chair of the CB12 committee, underscored the fact that although the designs were thought provoking, they were only part of a competition, intended to generate discourse about the current state of the High Bridge and the possibilities of its improvement, not concrete proposals for implementation. Ritter likened the competition to a high fashion runway show where “ridiculous designs that no real people would wear are shown, to later inspire the day to day trends we see.”
The competition was open to worldwide participants and 42 different countries registered for the event. A total of 386 registrants, half from the U.S. and 19 from New York City, entered the contest.
First place in the competition was secured by a group of Philadelphia landscape architects, Keith VanDerSys, Marguerite Graham, Marisa Bernstein & Young-Joon Choi. They designed a network of pools in the Manhattan side of the High Bridge that would collect rain water that passed through an irrigation system to form a waterfall descending from the side of the bridge. The design, titled “Ripple Effect,” looked at using and reusing natural resources to beautify the areas on both sides of the bridge.
A jury of seven people representing a cross-section of perspectives on design, architecture, preservation, planning, and landscaping, including local artist Rosa Naparstek, chose their favorite submissions. Designs incorporated the arts, the environment, the use of the river, and the preservation of the already existing architectural elements.
Some of the favorites included designs that built additional structures adjacent to the bridge which would be used to display art and other activities, bringing nature and green spaces to the bridge, and engaging the use of water recreation.
Although the High Bride has been closed since the 1970s, in the last few years there has been a movement to restore and reopen the famed architectural treasure that the bridge represents. The High Bridge Coalition and city and state agencies have raised funds and public awareness to restore the bridge to pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
As planned, it’s expected that day will come sometime in 2013. Waterfall or not.