Originally built in 1908, the Northern Avenue Bridge spans Fort Point Channel, connecting the financial district with a blossoming tech center. The bridge was designed to pivot on a concrete drum to allow boats to pass, an engineering innovation that made the bridge an icon of its era. The bridge is currently closed to the public, due to its poor condition. PLA now proposes transforming the historic structure into a floating bridge that would crisscross the harbor. The proposal envisions tethering the bridge at the pier at Spectacle Island during the summer, and in the fall and spring, the floating bridge could dock in the Charlestown Navy Yard. The floating bridge could also serve as additional event space square footage during festival seasons.
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PLA has confirmed with a structural engineer that the existing bridge, although not suitable for use in its current state, could be refurbished as part of the adaptive reuse project. A floating version of the bridge could be towed or motor-propelled, and the proposal includes the installation of solar panels wrapping its upper members to create a canopy while generating renewable energy. As is the case with so many PLA projects, this proposal was produced by an interdisciplinary team of designers, architects, and engineers assembled specifically for this project. In addition to Lukez himself, other contributors include Tania Bronsoiler, Josh McDonald, Matt Uminski, Andrew Luy, Darquin Fortuna, and structural engineer Jennifer McClain of RSE Associates, Inc.
Boston mayor Martin J. Walsh, along with the Boston Society of Architects/AIA (BSA), hosted a design competition earlier in the year, calling for ideas to repurpose the existing bridge. The winning design suggests turning the bridge into a permanent botanical garden and greenhouse for pedestrian travel only. Other proposals include transforming the bridge into a hotel, an underground tunnel with a glass roof, and an updated take on the original rotating bridge design.
Images via Paul Lukez Architecture except existing bridge photo by Peter Vanderwarker