A team of Harvard Graduate School of Design alumni is among the six finalists in a competition being held by the New York City Council and the Van Alen Institute to reimagine New York’s Brooklyn Bridge as a friendlier experience for cyclists and pedestrians, entitled “Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge.” The team comprises GSD alumni Wendy Wang (MLA ’14), Cy Zhang (MLA/MLAUD ’20), Vita Wang (MArch ’19), Jeremy Pi (MUP ’19), and Minzi Long (MAUD/MDes ’20), as well as designers Shannon Hasenfratz and Andrew Nash.
“The Brooklyn Bridge has the potential to serve as a testing ground for designs that serve our communities in need — not just in an imagined, idealistic future — but now,” writes the Van Alen Institute. “With these considerations at heart, the six finalist proposals are a compelling and optimistic set of ideas for responsive short-term interventions and longer-term, large-scale reconfigurations of the Brooklyn Bridge.”
According to the competition website, the team’s proposal, “Bridge X,” reimagines the upper and lower decks to reclaim space for greater pedestrian and cyclist access, to make room for vendors and small businesses, and to offer new modes of engagement with the bridge. Digital tools and design interventions enable visitors to more easily access, explore, and reflect on their experiences of the bridge, while the bridge itself evolves in response to public feedback and adapts from a pandemic to a post-pandemic era. The team submitted their proposal via Wang’s ScenesLab, which she founded as a platform for experimentation and research.
“Bridge X” was named one of three finalists in the competition’s Professional category, alongside collaborative entries from Bjarke Ingels Group and Arup Group, and from Pilot Projects Design Collective, Cities4Forests, Wildlife Conservation Society, Grimshaw and Silman. A second category, Young Adults, sought designers under the age of 21 to propose their “wildest dreams,” and also named three finalist projects. The competition jury named these six finalists from among 250 collective submissions.
“Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge” was launched in February 2020, and the ensuing Covid-19 pandemic recast the competition’s mission, though not fundamentally. “As made even more clear by the pandemic, the design of our streets and shared spaces must be responsive to the present moment and work to correct past injustices,” the Van Alen Institute writes. “They must foster equitable, accessible, and sustainable transportation options, create a healthy and safe environment for all New Yorkers, and opportunities for small businesses and vendors to flourish.”
According to the Van Alen Institute, the competition’s finalists were selected by an interdisciplinary jury representing a wide-ranging set of perspectives on the Brooklyn Bridge. The jury considered the following factors: team composition; accessibility and safety; environmental benefit and security; respect for the bridge’s landmark status; feasibility; and “magic”—i.e. new ideas that surprise, delight, and fascinate.
The three Professional category finalist teams present their proposals during a public, virtual “Design Showdown” on Thursday, July 23, when the jury and viewers will have an opportunity to offer feedback on each design. Each project is also available online, and viewers can cast votes for their favorite proposals between July 23 and 30. A winner will be announced in late summer.
The New York City Council said the city’s Department of Transportation would review these proposals as part of a planned assessment of the bridge.
“As we undertake our own engineering inspection this year to help assess the capacity for changes to the promenade, we welcome new and innovative ideas on how to reimagine the Brooklyn Bridge Promenade to create more space for pedestrians and cyclists,” Margaret Forgione, the chief operations officer of the city’s Transportation Department, told the Wall Street Journal.