The Van Alen Institute has launched an open international ideas contest to rethink the future of the public realm on Brooklyn Bridge
The competition, supported by New York City Council, seeks ‘unconventional’ proposals to revamp a notoriously overcrowded pedestrian and cycle promenade which spans the 1883 suspension bridge connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan.
It aims to identify innovative solutions for the bridge, which respect the National Historic Landmark while also boosting mobility and access for regular commuters, tourists and commercial vendors. It is divided into two categories with the first open to professionals aged 22 and above and the second accepting entries from anyone 21 or under.
The competition brief reads: ‘Since opening on May 24, 1883, the bridge has taken on near-mythic significance in New York City. Its striking form has captured the imagination of some of the nation’s most prominent artists. Its enduring iconographic power makes it one of the most photographed locations in New York. In popular culture, the bridge is a symbol for the city itself, used in countless establishing shots in films and television.
‘But that iconic status comes at a cost. At peak hours, the promenade is crammed, uncomfortable, and sometimes unsafe. Thousands of pedestrians and cyclists cross the bridge every day. In response to these conditions, the New York City Council and Van Alen Institute have launched Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge, an international design competition that aims to spark a new public conversation about New York City’s infrastructure.’
Brooklyn Bridge was the first fixed crossing across the East River and the longest suspension bridge in the world. It was designed by the civil engineer Washington Roebling for trams and horse-drawn traffic and later repurposed for motor vehicle traffic.
The popular tourist attraction features a promenade for cyclists and pedestrians around 5.5m above the roadway. The structure is used by thousands every day but is constrained by several ‘pinch points’ caused by suspension cables, benches and stairwells and varies in width between 3m and 5.2m.
Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge seeks ideas to improve the promenade, which is currently segmented by a painted line into pedestrian and cyclist paths but is often overcrowded and dangerous for users.
Submissions should include a 10-page brochure featuring a cover sheet, team description, examples of previous work, description of an overall vision and a written explanation of the design approach to the challenge.
Three finalists in the professional category will each receive $13,000 to develop their designs while three finalists in the young people’s category will receive $3,000 each to further work on their schemes. Shortlisted teams will be announced in early May and given until mid-July to submit final concepts before the announcement of the overall winners.
Judges will include Marla Gayle; managing director of SOM; Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy; Danny Harris, executive director of Transportation Alternatives; and Isabella Joseph, student at the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture, City College of New York.
The deadline for applications is 5 April.
How to apply
Van Alen Institute
30 West 22nd Street
Tel: 00(1) 212 924 7000