Lincoln Center now hosts New York’s semi-annual Fashion Week, but this spring a different kind of catwalk will unfold at the culture hub. A slightly skewed pedestrian bridge designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) will span across 65th Street, linking the main campus to the Rose Building and Juilliard. The bridge represents the last component of the Center’s renovation project. After an extensive effort to remove the bulky Milstein Plaza, which loomed over 65th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue, the street finally saw daylight for the first time in decades. But foot traffic between Julliard, the Rose building, and the main campus remains heavy. It’s a major concern for the dancers from the School of American Ballet, some as young as seven, who must now navigate the busy city street.
Kevin Rice, DS+R’s director for public spaces, said the bridge proposal turned out to be the most contentious element in the renovation of the complex. “City Planning has a goal to have lively streets, and bridges take that away,” said Rice, “It’s a valid concern.” As there are so few open pedestrian bridges in New York, Rice said that clear construction guidelines did not exist when the project started. But as DS+R simultaneously worked downtown on the High Line—itself one big pedestrian bridge—they helped the city establish new protocols for bridges, which ultimately found their way into the 65th Street project.
The bridge applies much of the same surgical implementation seen throughout the redesign, visually slicing through Modernist elements while maintaining much of the old pedestrian flow. The bridge will direct the traffic from the Rose and Juilliard buildings toward the north plaza, which was originally designed by Dan Kiley. As the two areas are on an angle from each other, a simple perpendicular design wouldn’t do. Also, the street rises from Amsterdam to Broadway, so the bridge needed to pitch up as well. For this reason, the design got its distinctive lower case “y” shape, with the short line of the letter anchoring itself onto lower level sidewall. This helps raise the entire structure up above the traffic and creates a bend in the footpath three quarters of the way through.
“It’s basically a series of flat steel plates that have been welded together,” said project architect Michael Hundsnurscher. “But the main thing carrying the load is the stressed skin structure.” The metallic bulk also forms the guardrail on the east side, while the thinner west side utilizes a glass guard. Hundsnurscher worked with structural engineer Dewhurst Macfarlane and Partners to create an effect that makes the bridge appear very light when viewed from Broadway and almost sculptural when viewed from Amsterdam Avenue.