|(Not once, but twice!)|
The American Public Works Association (APWA) Oregon Chapter recently selected Salem's Peter Courtney Minto Island Bridge for the 2017 Project of the Year in the Structures Category for $5 - $25 million projects.It would be interesting to learn more about the competitors this year in the category. On the surface the award looks more like guild back-patting than a real honor against worthy peers. In 2014 it looks like a retaining wall won the award! (The chapter's public records aren't very thorough or organized.) Maybe that's wrong or cynical.
The focus on the announcement, though, seems more to be on the effort to brand the bridge as "iconic" than to advertise the substantive grounds for having won the award.
Maybe the bridge never will. Another hallmark of the Capitol, like that of many other icons, is that it is visible from other places in town.
The Minto Bridge has limited visibility from points outside of the park system.
|Minto Bridge from the Conference Center,|
inside on the southwest corner of the second floor.
(Folks who worked at or visited the Center regularly would have known the answer long ago, but I haven't seen anything written on it.)
It turns out the bridge is hardly visible from the glazed foyer on the second floor. In winter once the trees are bare it will be more visible, but the dish at Magoo's is still totally in front of it. Magoo's is the building in-line.
|Park Front from outside, in the driveway off Commercial Street|
So if there is anything that interposes in the sightline from the Conference Center to the bridge, it will be the nursing home building, not the Park Front building. Overall, because it is nearer, the Burke building of 1890 is a much larger barrier to views than any new construction farther away (at least at our present building heights). And it is the voids created by our surface parking lots that create most of the views. Your mileage may vary, but those aren't very picturesque and it is not obvious that the cars, asphalt, and gravel are more beautiful than any building "blocking" views. It would take a really ugly building to be worse than a parking lot! We should not want to preserve parking lots in order to preserve views.
|View towards the Minto Bridge from Commercial St Bridge|
Just in general, as a matter of the way it presents itself at multiple scales and from multiple perspectives it doesn't seem to manage very well. It doesn't have a lively sense of itself as unfolding and revealing different facets as people view it from different places. And it's not all that distinctive from a distance.
Maybe this is a consequence of having engineers rather than architects lead the design. During the design selection phase, an architectural firm might have created additional renderings from other places and at different scales, and given a better sense for any narrative procession as people view it from a distance and then walk to it, and for its real iconic possibilities as a landmark. It might have been easier to discern both limits and features of the design, to make adjustments, or to scale back the ambitions to a plainer bridge. These are elements of design and expertise that that can be worth a little extra up front. (Keep that in mind on the Police Station design process.)
I love the connection the Minto Bridge has created. This summer I've had some delightful long walks between downtown and the park. But as a bridge, as a structure, it is the Union Street Railroad Bridge I still love best.