Community Identity at Airway
Our initial involvement with the City of El Paso, Texas, involved creating an Aesthetic Improvement Master Plan for the I-10 corridor, an aging highway running through the city. We suggested a series of improvements at each of the major bridge crossings to create a sense of neighborhood identity at each site.
The City selected Airway at I-10 as the top priority site to apply the ideas from the master plan. Airway is a gateway to the City connecting the airport to the highway. The neighborhood around the highway is developing and the bridge needs to be brought up to the same level, aesthetically.
The original bridge had become an eyesore and did not feel welcoming to be around, the exact opposite message for an entry gateway. The community needed it to have an inviting, graceful expression. We could not touch the original bridge, so we focused on putting an aesthetic element in front of it. We also intended to soften the vast expanses of concrete at the site with a native landscape solution.
Our concept came from the ideas of flight, wind and movement and can be summed up as “Earth to Sky.” This theme drove the decision making process as we chose aerodynamic forms and wind inspired movements. It also influenced the earth tone to sky color scheme.
We discovered that an aerodynamic fin shape created a graceful complex curve from a simple system, when arrayed and rotated. This complexity from simplicity created an ever-changing custom form from only one unique part. The fins are positioned to allow views out from the bridge deck.
Under the bridge, the columns will be clad in pattern cut metal wraps that reinterpret the forms of the fins with dynamic patterns inspired both by wind movements and El Paso’s cultural heritage. These pattern wraps add pedestrian scale to the otherwise stark underside of the bridge.
In the landscape, the fins reappear, tying the site together. They now carry earth tones and are spaced out farther to create a sense of rhythm. They interact with and transition into the trees and native landscape in the planters.
One of the main issues at the site is the large expanse of concrete slope paving, the sloped borders between the highway and the frontage road. They are vast and barren and are a main visual detractor at the site. Covering them with large curving planters full of trees and native plants will soften the site and serve as a visual marker identifying the bridge from a distance.
The lighting strategy at the site will transform it into an identity beacon for the community while making it more safe and welcoming. Blue lights reinforce our concept and improved under bridge lighting makes the pedestrian experience safer.
At a public meeting to demonstrate these ideas, the public showed their support for our concept. Local business owners, community residents and their political representatives all agreed on the effectiveness of these solutions. At the meeting, and in publications later, comments have been very receptive to this integrated theme for Airway.