Downtown Bridges: Craft

Substance Architecture

Recognitions: AIA Iowa 2022 Craft Award

Project Description

For nearly two centuries the City of Des Moines has straddled the Des Moines river – dividing it into distinct halves. A century ago four significant bridges were constructed. The Court Avenue bridge was the most elaborate – marking the axis of the Polk County Courthouse. The remaining three bridges were utilitarian but similar - working in concert. Surprisingly, it was these three workmanlike bridges that became a symbol for the City. In 2015 the City decided to replace these three bridges. An engineering team developed a replacement design that was cost-effective and functional - a “DOT” bridge. The arches were gone, along with any symbolism. The City Council objected and asked the engineering team to work with an architect to improve the bridge aesthetics. The architect developed an enclosure system consisting of bent steel panels recalling the arches of the original bridges. These panels concealed the “DOT skeleton” and allowed lighting and other systems to be inconspicuously integrated. The new Grand Avenue bridge was completed in 2018 and the two remaining bridges are almost complete.