Connecting Yesterday to Tomorrow
Team MI:NY united to design a proposal that breathes new life into the iconic Brooklyn Bridge in its natural evolution as a connector of space, flow, and community, all while sharing the experience of lockdown and quarantine across the Atlantic Ocean.
“The Roeblings and the Brooklyn Bridge is a story of
construction, not destruction.”
Sometimes we need to be reminded of stories of
persistence in our history to deal with the challenges of our
present. John Roebling was inspired by the idea of crossing
the East River in a SAFE way to spur COMMERCE. But the
East River was a massive crossing, actually a saltwater
estuary and required INNOVATION and VISION. He died
before realizing his dream but not before passing his
VISION down to his son who continued after his father
passed on. And when Washington Roebling fell ill and
could not continue, he passed the torch to his wife Emily
Roebling who brought the project to completion. This
iconic bridge is a story of perseverance and aspiration.
Today, the bridge has survived over a hundred years and
acts as a daily reminder of our connection to the past. Over
time the bridge went from being innovative, to being lived
with, a part of COMMUNITY. As it ages in place like the
grand dame of New York City, and a preeminent city grew
up around it, this public space has become over run with
people and the people who use the bridge want SPACE and
We approached this project by asking ourselves: how can
we create more SPACE for pedestrians, commuters,
families with strollers, elderly, vendors, alike?
We decided the only way to create a sense of SPACE is to
separate the speeds of the end-users to create a better
FLOW for everyone.
NYC grew up around the Brooklyn Bridge, it’s always been there, and is a symbol of COMMUNITY to New Yorkers. We wanted visitors to feel a part of that COMMUNITY.
Journey Across the Bridge
A. The Beginning (Manhattan Ramp and Amphitheater)
The Roeblings and Team MI:NY start their journey at the corner of Broadway and Chambers St. As they walk east on Chamber St the Roeblings notice the first change, a RAMP that begins in front of Tweed Courthouse, which creates a new linear connection improving the existing ACCESSIBILITY to the Bridge by lifting bikers over the sidewalk and dedicating the existing crosswalk for pedestrians, creating SPACE and making ACCESS to the bridge SAFER. They are delighted to realize the 7,350 feet on continuous pedestrian and cyclist connection between Brooklyn and Manhattan EXPANDS their original VISION. As engineers, they are excited that 2 new ramps provide a fluent connection from the subway stop at City Hall park to the Hight Street subway station in Brooklyn. As they ascend the curving ramp they realize that separating the FLOW of traffic at this pinch point means that cars are no longer idling at the crosswalk creating an ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFIT and improving both human and vehicular traffic.
As the Roeblings follow the curve of the ramp through the trees on the corner of Chambers St and Centre St, the Roebelings pause to observe below them a new performance space created by a wedge-shaped amphitheater that provides a SPACE for VENDORS. The COMMUNITY gathering on the amphitheater to observe the performance brings delight to the Roeblings.
B. The Midpoint and Public Space
Now the Roebelings are on more familiar territory, the Bridge they built is spread across the East River before them, but the existing promenade has been widened. They notice as they continue their journey across the Bridge the pedestrian path now stretches above the existing car road improving the FLOW of traffic in the new SPACE. Where before there was empty SPACE there is now a meandering path that still maintains a connection between all the transportation layers.
The Roebelings stop at the MIDPOINT of the Bridge to observe 15,200 sq. ft. of unique hanging public SPACE with raised gardening beds planted with native species including showy aster, pink vervain, wool grass, and hot lips turtlehead to mimic the glorious gardens in the Brooklyn Bridge Park below the Bridge bringing an ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFIT to the Midpoint. The Roebelings take a seat on the seating created by the raised garden beds and observe the COMMUNITY far removed from the city’s streets.
They see a SPACE designed with maximum flexibility in mind.
What they see now showcases POP-UP SPACES with a
temporary ART exhibit, food VENDORS, and FAMILY activities that can change with the season. Emily gets up and walks to the edge of the SPACE looking at wonder at the 6 foot tall safety glass wind breaker with interactive smart touch screen capabilities that present real-time city data from sensors and explain the New York skyline she can see through the smart glass. As they look around, they see two SECURITY structures clad in similar translucent glass manned by NYPD protecting the COMMUNITY on the Bridge.
C. Brooklyn Ramp and Anchor Points
Once the Roebelings have rested they continue walking across the Bridge and as they round the Brooklyn tower the Roeblings are shocked to discover an elevator making the Brooklyn Bridge Park directly below ACCESSIBLE to families with strollers and elderly pedestrians. We continue our journey across the Bridge and come to their next surprise, a CONNECTION to the second RAMP that CONNECTS the Bridge to the C train and Anchorage Plaza where they find another elevator. They notice the FLOW of traffic is greatly improved by these new ACCESS points.
They decide to take the panoramic elevator down to the newly restored Anchorage Plaza where there are more VENDORS. As they stand at street level, they look overhead at the RAMP being utilized by bikers and pedestrians. The marvel at the connection to the Gateway Project at Tillery St. and the SPACE created by the new elevation. They notice that traffic is calm given the implementation of Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming report and the ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFIT is noticeable. Team MI:NY explained to the Roebelings that there are now five revitalized anchor points.
The team was honored to walk with the Roebelings and
explain to the Roebelings our philosophy hinges on a
“Design for All” aesthetic. They all agreed that easy and SAFE access for bikers, pedestrians, differently-abled persons, and families is what the Bridge deserves in the 21st Century and they parted ways as the Roebelings walked home to the Roebeling Brownstone a few blocks away in Columbia Heights.