Arlington Boulevard Part 2: Metal Grills

Arlington Boulevard, one of our best loved projects, demonstrates the power of our design process in creating successful solutions for communities. The project started in 2004 and took a decade to complete. During this prolonged process, we explored many design developments for the signature element of the bridge spans: the lighted grills. Our original concept featured hanging precast concrete panels across the bridge span. We designed these panels to carry the same patterning as the walls described in part one of this series.

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This drawing shows the original idea of patterned concrete panels on the bridge span.

Our drawing, above, shows how the patterns, inspired by Redbud tree leaves, would continue across the bridge span, tying the bridge into its site. This contextual approach to addressing all elements of the project with a holistic design vision is key to the process for all of our projects. This level of consideration and care is critical in creating resonant, community based projects.

18.01.16_AR_Metal Render 1

The concrete panels would have carried the same pattern as the neighboring walls.

The rendering, above, translates the line-work drawing into a visualization that shows how the bridge panels and the walls fit together to from a cohesive whole. As this design moved through the approvals process, it was found that the bridge would not hold the weight of additional concrete panels. A more lightweight solution would be needed if aesthetic elements were to be included on the bridge span. Being able to nimbly adapt a concept into a new design solution helps us navigate just such issues. We proposed a lightweight metal grill as a solution for this problem.

18.01.16_AR_Metal Grill Lines

This drawing shows the concept of expressing the pattern with linear metal bars.

The bridge could hold a metal grill; more open and significantly lighter than solid thick concrete panels. Translating the line-work in the patterning from concrete relief to linear metal bars, seen above, allowed us to move the concept forward, preserving the imagery in a new material. Our change of material not only opened up the possibilities for the bridge span, it also opened up the design to include lighting.

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The now open grills would allow for illumination.

Often, we discover that design challenges, such as this, can provide even better design solutions. In this case, we found the improvement that came along with using metal grills was the possibility of lighting the space behind the grills, illustrated above. Our introduction of dramatic lighted patterned grills to the bridge spans transforms them into identity beacons. Expressing the patterning in metal and light proved more powerful than the original concrete panels.

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This drawing shows the grill pattern adapted to be laser cut from large panels.

After the intense development process, where we designed the graceful backlit grills, the project had a period of rest. Because we are always looking to provide the best possible solution for our clients and their communities, when the project started back up again we took another look at the bridge grills. In the time that elapsed between last working on the grills and having to finalize their design, technology had advanced, including the ability to laser cut metal sheets into intricately patterned panels. We kept current on these technological changes and our ability to apply cutting edge methods to our work allowed us to refine the pattering, shown above.

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The final laser cut version carries the pattern and allows for dramatic lighting.

Moving beyond the simple line work of the first iteration of the grills into a dynamic figure-ground balanced graphic pattern elevated the grills into a truly artistic pattern band. This much more interesting solution, made possible only through new fabrication methods, transformed the bridge once more, adding connotations of stained glass and movement. Our tireless dedication to a project defines our practice and creates the caliber of project represented by Arlington Boulevard, shown in the detail photo above.

Team Credits:

Vicki Scuri SiteWorks

Alexandr Polzin

AECOM Transportation


Arlington County