Looking at Evanston: Design Thoughts | Design Concepts for the Lincoln Street Bridge

As the Central Street Bridge draws to a close this summer, preliminary discussions have already begun in the city to begin planning the next bridge replacement project in Evanston – the Lincoln Street Bridge.

A community organization, the Task Force for Better Bridges, founded by Richard Miller and supported by Seventh Ward council member Eleanor Revelle, shifted its focus from the new Central Street Bridge to Lincoln Street. Members of Design Evanston were invited to participate.

On July 14, 10 Design Evanston professionals and five others met with Richard Miller and Design Evanston Team Leader David Galloway to develop design concepts for the replacement bridge over Lincoln Street. The small group included First Ward Council member Clare Kelly and the city’s Director of Economic Development Paul Zalmezak as guest observers.

Prior to the evening’s “charette” – defined as an intense effort by architecture students to find solutions to a given architectural problem within an allotted time – the professional members of Design Evanston had received 87 pages of supporting documentation , including a 27-page report that summarized the results of a 30-student project from the Structural Art class at Northwestern University’s School of Engineering, led by Professor David Corr.

The assignment: “Suggest a replacement bridge for Lincoln Street where it crosses the North Bank Channel.” In addition, basic drawings (section, plan, elevation) of the existing structure, Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) guidelines, lane configuration options, and other programmatic documents were provided.

At the start of the charette, Richard Miller repeated, “The task is to imagine or design a section of streetscape on Lincoln, in a landscaped setting, which fits into that setting with a sense of place. He and Galloway then presented a one-hour summary of the evening’s goal: to develop design concepts, based on each member’s professional expertise and ideas, that demonstrate the design possibilities of the new bridge. The use of the bridge by cars, bicycles and pedestrians suggested functional solutions. The location of the bridge over a watercourse suggested aesthetic solutions. Whether to recycle the existing structure or build new financial solutions suggested.

For the next two hours, five people and a small team worked with paper, pens, pencils and markers – some rummaging through their laptops – to develop their design concepts. All were then invited to present their visual concepts and provide verbal feedback. The result was magical. “Something really remarkable,” said board member Kelly. “Our most important meeting ever – the start of a whole new chapter,” Miller said.

Here are the design concepts that emerged from the charette:

1. Paula Bodnar Schmitt, the sole graphic designer in the group, focused her efforts on the graphic messaging and place-making aspects with an emphasis on full scope approaches across the arch bridge.

2. David Galloway’s concept involved an economic decision to recycle the existing support structure, which seems possible, and create improved features on the bridge deck, including functional concrete piers and metal guardrails.

3. Tom Hofmaier also suggested reusing the existing support structure, but with the addition of pedestrian bumps and planters in the IDOT required lane dividers between vehicles and pedestrians.

4. Carl Klein/Sue Gartzman/Clare Kelly’s proposal called for a full arch at the edge of the roadway, but with a footpath that veers away from the roadway to encourage views and downward reflection.

5. Siamak Mostoufi addressed features tangential to a full arch bridge, such as a pedestrian and golf cart crossing at canal level on the west bank below, instead of the street.

6. Rob Natke proposed a small, delicate, through-arch structure spanning only the canal itself with east and west approaches marked by decorative lampposts and a walkway lined with light metal railings.

7. Greg Williams’ concept also involved reusing the existing bridge support structure with the addition of a corrugated, buttressed pedestrian deck constructed from wood or another porous material.

8. Jim Gamble submitted photographs and comments after the meeting. His concepts mirrored several others in the group: Separation of traffic and pedestrian barrier and use of natural materials for the walkway.

Almost every design solution responded equally to an IDOT requirement. This involved placing the heavy security barrier either side of the vehicle lane and not outside the pedestrian walkway – as was done at the Central Street Bridge.

This feature alone would contribute to a more open and lighter look when viewed from the side. Jim Gamble’s photograph of Wilmette’s Linden Avenue Bridge, above, clearly demonstrates this concept.

The next step in the process will be to release a report of the charette design concepts to the city’s engineering department for its review this month and include it in the city’s IDOT funding application by september.

Although the final design of the Lincoln Street Bridge is still months away, members of Miller and Design Evanston hope that one or more of the concepts generated in the charette will find their way into the construction documents for the new Lincoln Street Bridge. .

Dave Galloway summarized Design Evanston’s thoughts: “We hope that the ideas, concepts and schematic designs generated during the charette will: 1. be well received by the city; 2. Have an influential effect on the engineering firms selected to receive the city’s tender [request for quote]; and 3. Informing and strongly influencing the design of the bridge by subcontracted companies.