Portland art blog + news + exhibition reviews + galleries + contemporary northwest art

recent entries

Giving Thanks Readings
Meet RACC's new leader Madison Cario
November Reviews
Early November Links
Spooky reviews
Countdown to Portlandageddon?
Mid October Links including PNCA/OCAC merger talks
Paul Allen, philanthropist and arts champion dead at 65
Midwest Art Initiative Tour
Haunting October Picks
End of September News
September review cluster

recent comments

Double J
Calvin Ross Carl



Book Review
Calls for Artists
Design Review
Openings & Events
About PORT

regular contributors


Tori Abernathy
Amy Bernstein
Katherine Bovee
Emily Cappa
Patrick Collier
Arcy Douglass
Megan Driscoll
Jesse Hayward
Sarah Henderson
Jeff Jahn
Kelly Kutchko
Drew Lenihan
Victor Maldonado
Christopher Moon
Jascha Owens
Alex Rauch
Gary Wiseman



Guest Contributors
Past Contributors
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005

contact us


Contact us






powered by


Movable Type 3.16

This site is licensed under a


Creative Commons License

Saturday 10.11.08

« You Want to Hear This | Main | Opening this week »

Willamette Bridge Design Reactions

a prelimenary wave frame bridge design for the Willamette

I'm certain PORT readers remember how we were dissatisfied with ZGF's preliminary design for the Willamette River pedestrian and light rail bridge and created our own design contest. I'm also certain most of you saw last Wednesday's O with preliminary images of the possible Willamette River pedestrian and light rail bridge. They even had a survey for readers to pick their favorite design. All of which is fine and good but because they don't have a full time architecture critic the piece is about as hard hitting as an article in Dynamite magazine. Can we have cookies and milk while we look at cool bridges too?

Seriously, it is good they are sort of paying attention but criticism has an important place in this sort of process. Criticism raises expectation, clarifies goals and gives us better buildings and bridges through comparative analysis and some sort of public display of expertise providing a baseline reaction. The problem is the article and release did nothing to clarify the design goals which should drive the basic structural decisions. Needless to say if Portland wants to be taken seriously as a serious design center we require an architecture/design critic with a strong background (not just an art guy with architecture in his blood, like me). What's more, Portland is just starting to engage the river that defines it so much with the esplanade and big pipe. That makes the first contemporary bridge design in Portland since the 70's even more important. It is also important to note these are just early designs used to determine the two best structural options and could ultimately be designed by another firm.

Thankfully Trimet has posted the whole presentation in all of its detail.

My take on all three prelimenary options (though it's putting the cart before the horse):

The wave form design is probably the most intriguing, it has good scale and echoes the Ross Island Bridge's superstructure but it's still a bit generic.

This is a preliminary image but the wave frame also seems to provide the best interaction/connection with the water... a key concern for pedestrians and cycling in Portland. If a rationale for the design could be established it would be nice... right now it's a bit like a dragonfly's 2 sets of paired wings.

*Update: according to the architect Miguel Rosales, "the wave frame bridge is a variation a girder bridge similar to the Glenn L. Jackson Bridge over the Columbia River but instead of using concrete we proposed steel and instead of having the girder in compression below the deck we have it in tension and that is why is above the deck. The shape is also derived from the moment diagram which more or less follows the curvature of the wave."

The cable stayed design above has a lot of design potential to be gossamer-like, but this triangular design is disappointingly clunky. Still the more triangular option shown here allows the cable stays to be placed between the pedestrians and the light rail allowing better connection to the water, there was another option with better towers and bad cable placement. What's more the cable stayed design allows the most span clearance for river navigation. Rosales & Partners (who did all of these designs) do make some pretty great cable stayed designs like the one below.

rendering of St Louis Cable stayed design

Lastly, the though arch design is derivative of the excellent Freemont Bridge (and origin of PORT's logo) and should be rejected.

For further consideration are these designs considering the pedestrian and bycicle experience enough? What about a green bridge with plant life?

*Update: For comparison here are some designs that set the bar a bit higher:

This bridge in Bristol makes maximum use of its underside, an area where visitors can most commune with the river.

The obligatory Santaigo Calatrava (cable stayed) reference here. This bridge is in Redding California, and was good enough to get me to stop in Redding.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on October 11, 2008 at 22:35 | Comments (2)


The "wave" design seems to be the obvious winner, but I don't feel overly confident about any of the proposals. None seem like they are making the statement that Portland architecture should be making at this point in our city's history.

Posted by: Calvin Ross Carl [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 12, 2008 01:00 PM


Ive updated the post and yes I agree... everything seems a bit generic still. We need some strong thinking about how we use and cross the river and this bridge is our best opportunity to convey Portland's position as a 21st century city with more heuristic concerns.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 12, 2008 06:02 PM

Post a comment

Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Remember me?

s p o n s o r s
Site Design: Jennifer Armbrust   •   Site Development: Philippe Blanc & Katherine Bovee