2021 Merit Award

Un-Built Projects

Back to the Future: Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn, New York

Landscape Architect:

Bjarke Ingels Group

Project Team:

Arup (Transportation Planner & Project Engineer)
NY City Council and the Van AlenInstitute (Clients)


About the Project:

The Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge international design competition, hosted by NY City Council and the Van Alen Institute, launched with the goal to investigate how to transform the bridge into a better experience for all users. Prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic and demonstrations against police brutality and systemic injustice, the brief developed and required streets and shared spaces to address the present moment and past injustices, and to enable peaceful gatherings, safe transportation, and opportunities for small businesses to flourish.

Today, the bridge doesn’t meet users’ needs and some—particularly cyclists and walkers—are especially affected. Private vehicles occupy 78% of bridge span with all other users crammed into a mere 16’ corridor. Travel behaviors have also changed as automobile-dependence declines with a move towards cycling, walking, and efficient transit systems. Our concept restores the bridge to its original profile, and reallocates the vehicular space for a robust cycleway, dedicated transit routes, and a generous walkable promenade.
This triples the public realm along the bridge span including pedestrian access to the best skyline view in the City. It also results in a potential 200% increase of user utilization and a robust mobility experience across the East River which does not presently exist.

Special Factors & Additional Information:

The proposal extends beyond the bridge, to influence the anchorages and the broader transportation network. The original Brooklyn Bridge anchorages were integral parts of the neighborhood fabric with significant public transit facilities, public spaces, and even commercial spaces within their structures. 1950s vehicular infrastructure supplanted these civic features, and formed a barrier disconnecting adjacent neighborhoods. Our concept approach restores the anchorages to their original form, allowing for public activation, and engagement with the incredible historic architecture. Removing these ramps would release 32 acres of land for public and environmental benefit on both sides of the bridge, more than 5x the total area of the Highline, to combat climate change and urban heat increase, and offer recreational
spaces for adjacent neighborhoods and a growing city. Part of our process was to identify and collect input from community stakeholders, which included public housing residents and local representatives of nearby neighborhoods that had been historically disconnected by the elevated highway network and disproportionally exposed to airborne particulates.

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