Firm's winning design for West End Bridge uses suspended walkways

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A sketch shows how architectural firm Endres Ware of Berkeley, Calif., envisions walkways suspended from the West End Bridge.
Click photo for larger image.

A California architecture and engineering firm has won the competition to design a pedestrian walkway for the West End Bridge with a simple solution that jurors say respects the historic character of the bridge.

The new steel and aluminum walkways, to be located on both the upstream and downstream sides of the bridge, will be suspended from its arches and level with its deck.

The winning design was submitted by Endres Ware, one of seven finalists in the competition. The firm will receive a $7,500 cash prize, funded by the $413,000 Alcoa Foundation grant that supports the competition.

The entire length of the pedestrian walkways will function as overlooks, with benches for seating lining one side of both the upstream and downstream bridges.

"We analyzed the existing structure and utilized where there was excess capacity and strength to create the new design," said Paul Endres, a principal in Endres Ware of Berkeley.

"Viewed from the city, the West End Bridge will appear to be unchanged, but as you approach the new pedestrian bridge and pass through it, the bridge will take on new life and a new meaning. The views from the bridge are going to be spectacular to the east and to the west."

"The judges described the Endres Ware design as elegant because of its simplicity but with a geometric variety that will be visually exciting to see as people approach from the riverbanks," said Lisa Schroeder, executive director of the Riverlife Task Force, which sponsored the competition. "As you approach, the pedestrian path is a ribbon that undulates, and the cables create a beautiful arcing design that changes as you move.

"The feedback that the judges gave indicated that this design respects and enhances the existing West End Bridge and builds on a very distinguished history that is unique to Pittsburgh, while it creates new opportunities for people to stroll, sit and linger."

In the second stage of the competition, for which each of the finalists was given $15,000 to visit Pittsburgh and advance their designs, Mr. Endres said his team tried to make theirs more subtle and invisible.

They also made stronger connections to the north and south shores, defining pathways through neighborhoods that would appear as markers by day and lights by night. Although those components are not yet fully designed, the pedestrian bridges' decks would be illuminated from below, with translucent rods penetrating the decks and creating "pebbles of light" on the tops of the decks. A similar treatment could be introduced in communities adjacent to the bridge to guide people to it.

"The jury was impressed with the range of ways this design connected to the shore and communities," Ms. Schroeder said. "There are ample possibilities to maximize and amplify those connections on a number of different levels, literally. It's a flexible and fluid way of marking a path."

Riverlife asked for a design that blends the historic bridge, completed in 1932, with a contemporary addition so that together they become "a new iconic landmark . . . a symbol of the future and of urban life centered on the rivers."

The bridge's existing sidewalks are narrow and harrowing to cross, and its steep steps are impediments to bike riders. The new pedestrian bridge will provide ramps to the riverfront trails that eventually will define the 10-mile-long Three Rivers Park, proposed by Riverlife consultant Alex Krieger in 2001.

There is not yet a budget or timeline for completion of the walkways.

"All of the teams who submitted [designs] gave cost estimates," Ms. Schroeder said. "We have some work to do to finalize those estimates and make them public. We will be working diligently and immediately to put together a strategy for advancing design and engineering and also fund-raising."

Endres Ware's entry was among 85 submitted in the open competition launched last fall. The competition also included an invitational component, with 24 firms or teams responding. The 109 total entrants were narrowed to a field of seven.

The Endres Ware team also includes the Olin Partnership of Philadelphia, for landscape architecture and urban design; Auerbach Glasow of San Francisco for lighting design; RWDI of Ontario, Canada, for wind engineering; and Amman & Whitney, of Pittsburgh, as consulting engineers.

The second- and third-place winners came from the invited competition; they are La Dallman Architects of Milwaukee, and West 8 Urban Design and Landscape Architecture of Rotterdam, the Netherlands. They will receive prizes of $5,000 and $2,500 respectively.

Images of the winning entries will be posted on

Patricia Lowry can be reached at or 412-263-1590.


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