Arts & Culture

Antidote to boring bridges

The new Broadway bridge over Interstate 670 will be artfully trimmed in glowing yellow, adding color to the downtown skyline while fascinating pedestrians as they cross to the new performing arts center.

David Dowell, a principal at El Dorado Architects, briefed the Downtown Council last week on the final design of the combination artwork and pedestrian divider that will grace the new bridge, which is scheduled to begin construction May 1.

The Missouri Department of Transportation announced in December it planned to demolish the current bridge and have its replacement completed in time for the September opening of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

The fast-track project also was seen as a great opportunity to improve the pedestrian experience and look of what’s now a very generic highway bridge. The city is matching the state for an enhancement package that should cost between $300,000 and $400,000.

The sidewalks on both sides of the new span will be doubled in width to 10 feet, making it a far safer crossing. The fun part, however, is the new divider, which will be about 8½ feet tall from the sidewalk.

Lighting designer Derek Porter worked with El Dorado on the plan.

So why yellow?

Dowell said: "We spent a lot of time looking at what’s there, Bartle Hall, the Performing Arts Center, the convention center loading dock ... what struck us was the dominant color was either gray or gun-metal blue.

"We looked at colors we thought would complement that, and thought yellow would be a little jarring."

The fence itself will be layered, with the inner and outer skins made from aluminum mesh sandwiching a 12-inch space occupied by alternating sections of yellow plastic panels and metal mesh coated in yellow plastic.

Indirect lighting will make the chamber glow yellow at night. During the day, sunlight will glisten from the yellow mesh.

"From a city skyline image, we wanted a little bit of color in that environment," Dowell said. "On the flip side, for a pedestrian who’s visually curious, it won’t be like any other bridge anywhere."

And as an extra benefit, the panels inside the new barrier will reduce traffic noise, making the pedestrian experience even more pleasant.

The new Broadway bridge and its artistic pedestrian features will join a series of downtown bridges over I-670 that have been dressed up in recent years.

El Dorado designed the divider for the Wyandotte bridge with the help of MK12 Studios and Genesis Structures Inc. Helix Architecture designed the Baltimore, Walnut, Main and Grand bridges using art by James Woodfill.