Ilana Simhon, USA


Explanatory Note

cat/WALK/RUN/PLAY/SWIM invites visitors to the typically neglected space below the bridge and transforms it into a suspended linear playground. Each program band allows the users to interact with the architecture in a different way. 

Certain elements are static, while others can be manipulated by the user. As the occupants are empowered with individual expression, the object evolves and embodies those who pass through and temporarily own it.


The space below a bridge is inevitably used for swimming, social gatherings, graffiti, and other spontaneous activities. As people pass through a public space such as the zone below a bridge, it is human nature to temporarily claim it as their own and to alter it in some way. cat/WALK/RUN/SWIM/PLAY acknowledges this and provides a platform to encourage these typically frowned upon activities. The trajectory begins at the river where users are encouraged to swim in pools during the summer and skate on during the winter. Parallel moving decks along the three pools empower the users to connect the lap, lounge, and children’s pool or to section off the pools for smaller more intimate spaces.

Catwalks provide circulation and take the users to the next program band, the graffiti zone. By adding a vaulted surface in this space, the typically negative act of graffiti is monumentalized and therefore encouraged. A pulley system lifts up the users to access the surface and pushes down counterweights to create a highly dynamic painting zone. The vaulted surface also increases visual access and allows for increased communication between the past, present, and future inhabitants.

As the users continue along the catwalks, they reach the performance area where occupants are empowered to put on a show for other present dwellers. A pulley system allows for the backdrops to be changed in order to accommodate all types of performances. Static bleacher seating is provided as well as movable benches on pulleys to allow the users to alter the visual access to the stage.

The last established program band is a paint shop to not only serve cat/WALK/RUN/SWIM/PLAY but to also add to the surrounding industrial area. 

As the users circulate through the space below the bridge, they are invited to access the predetermined program as well as to discover opportunities for spontaneity. The architectural object is placed in constant motion and evolution by the users and serves to counter the fast paced motion from the vehicular traffic above. Large signs which rhythmically span the bridge at each pier display the weight of the program zone below and communicate the activity levels. More weight implies more people and therefore more activity. This establishes a connection between the world above and the suspended playground below. 

The functionality of the project lies in the fact that although each program band is connected by a web of catwalks, each is its own entity and can be constructed independently if needed.

Catwalks are light and durable and no added structure is necessary to suspend them. 


Ilana Simhon 

My name is Ilana Simhon and I received my Bachelor of Science in architecture from the  University of Buffalo where I completed a thesis on the topic of architecture in relation to  the user. I have explored the built environment as an evolutionary process in which the  architect sets up a framework for the user to develop and manipulate over time. The user  becomes involved in the process and the result is an architecture that embodies those who  occupy it. The architect designs an intentionally unfinished project with opportunity for  manipulation by the users. The iconic «money shot» is shifted from opening day to the post  occupancy phase after people have personalized and claimed ownership over it. I have used  competitions as a design tool to experiment with the building to user relationship. I have  found that competitions allow young designers to participate in the architectural discourse.  Under the Bridge is the third competition in a series to test out how the architect can  empower the user to participate in the design process.  I will continue my studies at the Yale School of Architecture to receive the Master of Architecture.

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