When Seattle-based LMN Architects and KPFF Consulting Engineers were tapped to design the Grand Avenue Park Bridge in Everett, Washington, the team worked to not only meet functional demands but to also achieve aesthetic appeal. The newly completed bridge, which took three years of construction, is now an iconic community asset that connects the elevated Grand Avenue Park with the city’s growing waterfront district — bringing along with it a series of new civic spaces. In a nod to the traditional railroad trusses common across the Pacific Northwest, the architects designed the bridge with weathering steel and brilliant, aluminum guardrails with bespoke perforation that creates a shimmering effect when illuminated at night.
Completed in August 2020, the 257-foot-long asymmetrical Grand Avenue Park Bridge provides city residents with a new connection to the growing waterfront district, which had long suffered a disconnect due to a five-lane highway, BNSF railroad tracks and a steep slope of 80 feet. The design team mitigated the challenging grade changes by weaving together pedestrian ramps and stairs into the bridge — much of the bridge structure is tucked below Grand Avenue Park to preserve views from the elevated park — and anchoring the structure with a vertical concrete tower and utility core on the waterfront side. The bridge also carries major utilities across its span.
“As designers, we found these circumstances the perfect opportunity to create a place where the accessible features would define the experience,” said LMN Partner Stephen Van Dyck, AIA in a press statement. “In its design, the Grand Avenue Park Bridge is also a destination. The bridge’s paths, stairs and spaces create a variety of views beyond and within that make it a place of discovery.”
The exposed and raw structural elements that are constructed of weathering steel are contrasted with lace-like aluminum guardrails. The 400 aluminum panels were perforated with a CNC Waterjet using a computer script that automated the layout, numbering and cut file production to ensure each aluminum panel is unique and responsive to the geometry of the bridge while fulfilling varying guardrail requirements. The varied density of perforations were also engineered to enhance reflectivity of the lights integrated at the top of the rail while minimizing glare and light pollution.
Photography by Adam Hunter via LMN Architects