Saturday, December 12, 2009

I-5 Willamette River Bridge Open House

Rendering of proposed I-5 Willamette River Bridge

I am privileged to serve as a member of the Design Enhancement Panel (DEP) for the new I-5 Willamette River Bridge replacement project in Eugene-Springfield. My involvement is a direct outcome of the “Whilamut Passage” design workshops that AIA-SWO produced last February.

The Design Enhancement Panel’s role is to ensure that aesthetic design details for the new Willamette River Bridge and surrounding area are interpreted in a cohesive way. The DEP also advises the bridge designers (OBEC Consulting Engineers) on matters of aesthetics, which included the selection of three Art & Design Teams (ADT). Each of the ADT is responsible for development of concepts based on the DEP’s interpretation of the overall design theme.

As I wrote previously, the February workshops revealed that the project is about a confluence of many things. There are layers of history, varying physical strata in three dimensions and more, multiple scales, intersections of paths of travel, motion, time, and relativity. The project is about telling the story about a place that is richer than any one of us imagined prior to our being involved with the project. We learned that there need not be a singular, iconic feature. We concluded that we should not winnow the ideas developed in the workshops to too small a number.

The money identified by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) as the premium available to tell the story is being distributed appropriately to three separate “bundles” to ensure that the complete outline of the narrative is legible. Each of the three ADT is responsible for one of the bundles:

Bundle 1: Above-Deck Elements
ADT: Lando & Associates with Buster Simpson

Bundle 2: South Bank
ADT: Greenworks pc

Bundle 3: North Bank & Whilamut Natural Area
ADT: Litus LLC

ODOT has challenged the ADTs with lofty expectations, limited resources, and a demanding timeline. Building upon the results of the AIA-SWO charrette, the teams are reconciling art as structure for the landscape, and the use of landscape as part of the art. They are struggling with how to celebrate what was there before and how to create a framework to tell the “Whilamut Passage” story. The ADT have been communicating with a broad spectrum of project stakeholders, which includes ODOT, the cities of Eugene and Springfield, the Citizen’s Advisory Group, the Whilamut Natural Area’s Citizen’s Planning Committee, and local neighborhood associations. The ADT are also working collaboratively with one another, exploring the spatial and temporal intersections between the bundles.

ODOT wants everyone’s opinion about the design enhancement concepts. Accordingly, it is hosting a public open house for the I-5 Willamette River Bridge replacement project from 5 PM to 7 PM Tuesday, December 15, at the Eugene Water and Electric Board headquarters at 500 East 4th Avenue in Eugene.(1)

The public is invited to drop in anytime during the open house to learn more about the bridge replacement project and review and comment on the preliminary design work by the ADTs.(2) The public can also learn more about the construction schedule and the innovative work done so far. ODOT is also seeking information from anyone about the historic Eugene millrace, including photographs, documents, or oral history to share with the project team. This information will assist the Bundle 2 designers, Greenworks, with its development of the proposed riverside interpretive center on the south bank.

Along with the other members of the Design Enhancement Panel, I will be on hand to answer questions about the project. I look forward to seeing all of you at the open house.

(1) Persons who need special accommodation at the open house should call Suzanne Roberts at (503) 471-6824.

(2) ODOT will also post the initial ADT design concepts for the project bundles on its project Web site. People who are unable to attend the December 15 open house will be able to comment online between December 15 and 17.

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