Taylor Tofal, USA
Many things happen under the bridge. However, the idea of something programmatic, something built for under the bridge, is one not commonly seen. Thus, the importance of such a project must be considered.
This is not a place in which one activity can occur, in which one group can meet; it must be, and, in essence, already is, an existing element in the fabric of a location in which unlimited things are possible for any occupant who cares to venture there.
A project that stifles these traits takes away from the very quality that makes this space so appealing and unique.
“Link” seeks to encourage these elements by providing, quite literally, links within the landscape: a link from under the bridge to its surroundings; a link between the spaces that occur there; a link between the cars that travel past this bridge and the people who stop to explore it.
The purpose of the project is varied- for passerby who view it by car, it functions almost as exhibition: a long, woven intervention that seems to grow from beneath the bridge itself. It is meant to be viewed by these occupants at a quick speed, drawing the eye quickly across the bridge and providing some understanding as to the movement that occurs there.
However, the project is also meant to be viewed up close. A corten steel “frame,” working
in conjunction with the existing concrete of the bridge, makes up the majority of the spaces underneath. Frosted u-glass placed within this frame creates the platforms which users can occupy and adds to the illusion of the light, floating structure. The wrapping of the steel around these platforms- vertically, horizontally, and in the angular positions that tie them together- holds the spaces in midair, but with a feeling of security that keeps the platforms airy without seeming uncomfortable or precarious for the user.
The ways to utilize the project are many. As aforementioned, it can be understood from the context of a driver as an intervention into the place; something to be viewed. When one decides to stop under the bridge, the decision can be made: how far would I like to go?
The multiple platforms allow for a number of different ways of occupation. One can move up to the first level, a larger, low space that can be used for viewing out or for standing within. If one chooses, they can stop here, or they can continue up to the next levels of stairways and platforms, which, for the Tolbuhinsky Bridge, will bring the occupant out further and further over the water, and, thus, under the bridge.
The spaces are all similarly constructed and designed, and can all host a multitude of activities. Their differences lie in the size and position of each- some are more comfortable for larger groups, for people to sit and stay, while others suggest one or few occupants can occupy them, for viewing or lingering or introspection.
The initial platforms are oriented for views outward toward the river, but others begin to turn, allowing one to make the choice of what they would like to focus on. Occupants who are seeking privacy under the bridge can continue to the smaller, farther platforms, and those simply stopping for a rest or a view can quickly access the first.
One of the key features of “Link” is its adaptability. Not only are the spaces and levels of the project varied and inviting for different uses, but the project itself can easily work and change to fit its environment. While this project was designed for the Tolbuhinsky Bridge, it could easily be worked to fit the Dobryninsky Bridge, or any bridge in which the program is warranted.
The use of relatively inexpensive materials, along with the pre-existing structure of the bridge that allows the project to “float” above road or water without the difficulty a free-standing project would have, means that the project can be implemented easily, and has the possibility of working in a number of places at a number of scales.
“Link” is meant to do just that: to link people and places, just as a bridge does. The difference becomes that the program is under the bridge, and in this aspect, everything changes. “Link” becomes the antithesis to the bridge, a project that is light to the heaviness of the bridge, floating where it is grounded, meant to be occupied and explored and wandered through, experiencing elements of the bridge that have gone previously undiscovered.
Taylor Tofal is an architecture student at the University of Florida, and has just completed her third year in the program. She is also pursuing minors in Sustainability and the Built Environment and Urban and Regional Planning, and hopes to continue her architectural education into graduate school next year.