The latest project by the enterprising students at VA Tech's design/buildLAB is the Smith Creek Pedestrian Bridge. Spanning a small creek that leads into the Jackson River, the bridge is more than just a pedestrian walkway - it's an integral element in the effort to revitalize Clifton Forge, a small Appalachian rail town that has been struggling to move beyond its industrial past. The bridge is built from reclaimed, local and sustainable materials, and it connects the downtown area to a new public park and the Masonic Amphitheater, creating a more vibrant and walkable city.
VA Tech’s design/buildLAB program offers third year architecture students the chance to learn while participating in a project that makes a difference. For the third year now in a row, the program has been working to help revitalize the town of Clifton Forge, VA. In 2011, the students built the Covington Farmer’s Market, then in 2012 they built the Masonic Amphitheater. This year, the 17 student team worked together to design a pedestrian bridge and surrounding park area that would further connect the downtown core to the new public spaces.
The inspiration for the pedestrian bridge and the park was to have the elements emerge out of the landscape of the park, as if the bridge had grown like a tree and spread roots. The ramp provides stroller and wheelchair accessibility, while steps provide another route of access. The bridge allows pedestrians to safely cross the creek and access the new park for outdoor recreation, social gatherings and relaxation.
Many of the materials for the project were donated, and the team sought to make the design as environmentally friendly as possible. The team used an existing concrete foundation to minimize additional landwork, and the structural steel frame was prefabricated then assembled on site, reducing construction time and allowing for full recyclability at the end of the bridge’s life. White oak was sustainably harvested from a nearby site for the bridge deck, and reclaimed wood from the site’s previous warehouse was used for the railing. The bridge reunites the once divided town and serves as a vital access point and gateway to the area’s improved public infrastructure.
Images ©Jeff Goldberg/ESTO