South Park Bridge
Salvaged elements of an original landmark bridge celebrate the inherent beauty of 1930s engineering and today’s South Park neighborhood.
Spanning Seattle’s Duwamish Waterway, the South Park Bridge reflects the historic and cultural integrity of the site’s original 1931 bridge and honors the industrial spirit of the surrounding community, thanks in part to artist Barbara Grygutis.The original bridge was an historic landmark—a rare example of a steel truss, double-leaf, movable span design, and the only bascule bridge in Washington state with a Scherzer rolling lift. It was also a regional transportation lynchpin, with over 20,000 vehicle crossings per day and over 10 million tons of freight crossing it every year. Yet when the replacement project began, the bridge scored the lowest rank among major high-volume bridges in the Seattle area due to its seismic vulnerability, failing concrete, unstable main piers, excessive maintenance requirements, and widespread steel corrosion.
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The King County Road Services Division partnered with 4Culture to bring Grygutis onto the South Park Bridge Replacement Project design team, and her creative thinking led to the reuse of functional and mechanical elements from the original bridge, which have been thoughtfully integrated into her artwork, calling attention to the splendor of 1930s engineering while celebrating today’s South Park neighborhood. Rockers create powerful visual gateways at the approaches and curved pickets on the railing echo the motion of the Duwamish waterway underneath. Exquisitely crafted gears and cast iron rail panels are embedded throughout the span. All add rhythm and narrative to pedestrian and vehicular passage.
“Once salvaged, these objects take on new meaning as they are appreciated not only for the engineering and mechanical part they played in the 1931 design, but also as objects of inherent beauty,” says Grygutis, who has been commissioned to create more than 75 large-scale public artworks throughout North America. “Originally designed to function with precision, we now appreciate them for their exquisite form.”
After an exceptional effort brought together residents, business partners, and government at every level, the new bridge officially opened on June 30, 2014, built to last 100 years. 4Culture managed the artist selection, design development, and implementation of the artwork.