This intersection has long been a controversial subject as many Winnipeggers find it difficult to imagine how vehicles and pedestrians can co-exist in this space.
While I'm neither an architect nor a city planner (or any profession that provides expertise in this area), I am a dreamer. And in my dream scenario, opening up this intersection would be through the design and build of a pedestrian bridge. More specifically, a circular pedestrian bridge similar to the Lujiazui Circular Pedestrian Bridge in the Pudong district of Shanghai, China.
Call it a pipe dream, but a pedestrian bridge or footbridge is a functional piece of infrastructure for any city, town or community. It encourages healthy living and activities, connects us with nature and one another, and improves tourism because it can be a work of art.
Merging functionality and aesthetics is certainly not a new concept in the world of architecture, but there’s no denying that by creating public space where the landscape and the artwork are inextricably linked can elevate a city’s reputation internationally.
According to the Globe and Mail, “World capitals are paying attention to improved passage for pedestrians,” citing examples such as the Millennium Bridge that spans the Thames in London and the Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir that spans the Seine in Paris, which “have gained worldwide attention from archi-tourists.”
I understand bridges are expensive pieces of infrastructure. However, at the same time, I think it’s essential to discover new aesthetics that challenge our idea of design and what a city like Winnipeg can be capable of on the world stage.
Around the world, there are built pedestrian bridges that reflect this notion—search the Dragon Bridge in Vietnam or the Helix in Singapore online. It's incredible how much each bridge enhances its surroundings, creating a piece of infrastructure that encourages conversation and imagination and transforms a city's profile.
One of the best opportunities to witness high-level design innovation and creativity is through design competitions. Even though the majority of design competition submissions will never actualize, they nevertheless highlight how artistic infrastructure can enhance and elevate the places and spaces where people want to live, work and play.
Can you imagine what Portage and Main would look like if we took inspiration from one of the bridge design submissions below? Let’s find out:
Submitted for the Concours d’Architecture Iconic Pedestrian Bridge design competition in 2011, Evgeni Leonov Architects created a dreamy, (and in my opinion) Moulin Rouge-esque design concept for the Amstel River in Amsterdam.
This Iconic Pedestrian Bridge has a roller coaster-like twist in the middle, holding a café observation deck at the top for optimal viewing. The covered bridge also provides protection for pedestrians from rain and snow.
According to the design team, there are two options to get from one side to the other: pedestrians can either walk straight through or head upstairs to the observation deck, which they made accessible for people with disabilities. Amazing.
Mohamed Elbangy, a former student of architecture at the British University in Egypt, created this twisted bridge design in 2015 for the Zamalek and Mohandeseen Districts in Cairo, Egypt.
Elbangy designed the bridge to have two levels: one for cyclists and one for pedestrians, connected by a theatre. According to A As Architecture, he fused together art, sustainability and innovative technologies like “music WAV file frequencies on the [bridge’s] twist modifier to simulate dancing on the bridge slabs.”
Standard Architecture created this design for the Salford Meadows Bridge International Design Competition in the United Kingdom.
The team behind this design imagined a meadow-to-city bridge where people could immerse themselves in “an ever-changing leafy cocoon”.
They used Vines of Virginia Creeper to wrap around the lattice shell tunnel, creating “a dramatic transition from the city to Salford Meadow” that also changes with the seasons.
The Nine Elms Bridge to Pimlico Bridge competition asked design teams to create a bridge design that “must work alongside the cutting edge architecture emerging on the south bank as well as the elegant frontages on the north.” While I struggled and failed to track down the firms that created these fantastic designs, I couldn’t just leave them out either.
So, technically, this list is a top seven!
However, as I mentioned earlier, one of my favourite aspects around design competitions is the opportunity to see high-level design innovation and creativity. It challenges us to think differently—and bigger—when it comes to what is possible in designing a pedestrian bridge.
Infrastructure can have its own narrative much like a story or a person, and when looking at these bridges, what do you think that story is? I see a story that celebrates a city's unique character.
Nadi designed Convexus as an architectural response to the neighbouring historical structures of Amsterdam for the Concours d’Architecture Iconic Pedestrian Bridge design competition in 2011.
The team envisioned this pedestrian bridge to be a destination place for locals and visitors, drawing them away from the canal edge and moving them towards the central axis where the café, admin, bike repair and storage are concentrated.
Furthermore, the geometry of the bridge fosters individuals to experience a new prospect of the Amstel District as one is directed out, over, around and down the river. Not to be biased, but I will never stop waiting for this design to become a reality.
After being introduced to these amazing designs, what are your thoughts? Do you think we could do something like this in Winnipeg? I'd love to hear your thoughts.