May 23 2011

Washington D.C. South Capitol Street Bridge: Reuse & Transformation

While the term sustainability lingers in the ears of Washington, D.C. locals, true sustainability rarely is as visible as the transformation of the Nation’s most heavily polluted water body, the Anacostia River. Poised above the Anacostia River is D.C.’s South Capitol Street Bridge, which carries more than 55,000 vehicles daily and it will soon be retired for the construction of a new gateway bridge that will carry commuters into Washington, D.C. While this aligns with D.C.’s desire for an emphasized gateway to the South entrance of the Capitol, plans for the old South Capitol Bridge are undetermined and under realized.

Aroom highlights the bridge's existing infrastructure as a potential asset to his design.

This very topic is the focus and thesis of University of Maryland, Master of Landscape Architecture student Kameron Aroom. The reclamation of a soon to be forgotten vehicular viaduct highlights the existing infrastructure of the South Capitol Street Bridge which serves as a model of reuse and celebration rather than one of demolition and disinterest.

In the case of the River Park, Aroom’s design wraps the bridge with light. At night the bridge becomes a focal point, hovering above the river, with lights emphasizing the reused infrastructure of the bridge. During the day the bridge acts as a visible model for offsetting environmental degradation, by directly intercepting storm water and cleansing the runoff before it flows to the Anacostia.

The bosque receives visitors & pedestrians from both ends of the bridge.

While drawing inspiration from the Highline in New York City, the context of Aroom’s urban design allows for a unique interpretation that sets apart the South Capitol Bridge from other pedestrian thoroughfares. Using the arc of the bridge as topography allows for a more episodic procession. The new design shows off suspended bike lanes that undulate above and below the surface of the bridge and walkways that move through distinct zones, including the bosque, valley, meadow, lawn, and outlook.

The canyon undulates below the bridge's surface, separating bicycles from pedestrian at times.

Planning and design that encourages the reuse of existing infrastructure, rather than demolition, is a model of urban design sustainability that is necessary in this era. Engaging with the public while servicing the environment and celebrating the form, are principles that carry not only this urban design, but also our way of living into a more viable future.

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Paul Drummond

Paul Drummond is a recent graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Landscape Architecture. Paul received the A.S.L.A Student Honor Award and has worked as a teaching assistant at the University of Maryland, along with shoreline restoration companies along the Chesapeake Bay. A native of Maryland and having lived on both sides of the state, Paul draws inspiration and ecological awareness from the entire state, ranging from the Appalachian Mountains of Western Maryland, to the estuaries, marshes, and agrarian landscape of the Eastern Shore.

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This entry was posted on Monday, May 23rd, 2011 at 2:20 pm and is filed under Architecture, Engineering, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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