This sustainable project demonstrates how the re-use of industrial artifacts can help reinvigorate “left over” urban spaces.
The Rolling Bridge Initiative (RBI) is a non-profit organization that seeks to save and reuse the “Rolling Bridge,” a forgotten railway drawbridge spanning Boston’s Fort Point Channel Basin, slated for removal as part of the project to depress the Central Artery. PLA collaborated with Mike Tyrell of RBI to reactivate the underused industrial landscape surrounding the Rolling Bridge as a timepiece, a trace of past urban connections and potential future links.
When the bridge was in use, the three parallel sections of the drawbridge pivoted open with the help of counterweights. Relocated, in an upright position, adjacent to their original site and set back from the channel’s edge, the bridge sections can be viewed at grade or from an elevated walkway perched 14 feet above the channel. This walkway is part of a proposed network of paths and parks that will link the residential South End with the Fort Point Channel warehouse district.
A pair of offset scrims (approximately 40 feet high and 300 feet long), are hung alongside the elevated walkway. The scrims receive the changing patterns of light and shadow cast by the bridge and are themselves reflected in the channel’s surface. The three-dimensional bridge is transformed into the two-dimensional shapes that appear on the scrims. Viewers then re-experience the bridge’s three-dimensional form as they travel across the elevated walkway, under and alongside the shapes appearing on the curtain. Perception of the bridge, as the shapes are modified by the movement of the sun and clouds, shifts throughout the day and the seasons.
The site recaptures a lost physical and historical connection to the urban landscape: the bridge segments face downtown Boston and align with the granite footings of an earlier bridge that previously existed on the site. Pedestrians walking through and between the bridge segments on a series of stairways would experience the superstructure as no one could during the operation of the bridge, thus becoming familiar with the patterns and materials of an urban infrastructure.
The bridge also serves as a prominent marker for commuters traveling on the highways overlooking the site. From all points of view, the Rolling Bridge will be transformed from a discarded piece of Boston’s infrastructure into a gateway and icon of the industrial era.