Date: 2011

Location:
Papago Park,
Tempe, AZ

Commissioning Agency:
Tempe Public Art

Project Managers:
Elizabeth Lagman, Maja Aurora

Details:
Weathering steel railings for three pedestrian bridges, sandblasted paving patterns.
North Bridge:
74 ft x 12 ft x 5 ft
Middle Bridge:
25 ft x 8 ft x 4 ft each
South Bridge:
31 ft x 5 ft x 3 ft each

Landscape Architect:
Jason Harrington, E Group

Fabrication:
CAID, 5 Star Eco Blasting

Awards:
2012 Public Art Network Year in Review
Valley Forward Award of Merit

Photographs:
Michael Lundgren, Bill King

The mile-long stretch of the Crosscut Canal path that winds through Papago Park passes through a wide variety of manmade and natural environments, and each bridge reflects its unique site. The North Bridge features sculptural perforated panels set into a truss bridge. The ripple forms echo the movement of the water below, and the subtle form is low to the water to keep views of the red-rock mountains above. The Middle Bridge, which echoes the form of a nearby dam, features two arch forms with built-in seating, dramatically cantilevered over the water. The South Bridge, located in the more natural, shady point in the park features a wood deck and flared arcs of perforated steel, providing a softer-feeling bridge that melts into the landscape, opening up in the center, giving walkers a view of the natural-banked canal. A 30-foot topographic map of the park, canal and path playfully shows visitors the lay of the land. At the north end, two 20 foot thumbprints mark the end of the path. Both designs – topographic lines and thumbprint ridges – are drawn in lines that reflect rippling water, connecting the three elements that make Papago Park such a unique landscape: the water, the mountains and the people.

Did you know that Papago Park used to be a national monument? I didn’t until I started working on this project. It was decommissioned after the government decided that it was too valuable for other purposes, and is now criss-crossed with a big canal and giant utility lines. But it’s still a beautiful park with spectacular red rock formations and open, dark, desert skies at night. When the City of Tempe decided to create a paved multi-use path along the canal, people who used the park were very concerned that the path would detract from the natural feel of the area. My challenge was to create something that could match the scale of the existing infrastructure but not interfere with open desert views. Three bridges, one at each point the path crosses the canal, become natural stopping points to rest, look around, and enjoy the water underfoot. Sculptures that you can bike through, they feel like they’ve been part of the park forever.