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City Announces New Design for Sixth Street Bridge

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Model of design for the new Sixth Street Bridge | Photo by Justin Cram

A Los Angeles landmark will soon be demolished to make way for a brand new icon that will turn all eyes toward the long-neglected L.A. River. This morning Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, along with Councimember Jose Huizar, announced the winner of the six months-long campaign for a design of the new Sixth Street Bridge, which will replace the aging bridge that currently spans across the river and three freeways, connecting Downtown to Boyle Heights.

HNTB Corp. will see its ambitious design become a reality as the veteran firm was announced as the winner among three finalists (others being AECOM and Parsons Brinckerhoff), at a press event that fittingly took place on the Sixth Street Bridge. The decision was unanimous among the nine-member panel that includes architects, community leaders, and local residents.

The mayor proudly noted that while this was an international competition, the community was involved in every step of the way, including most recently, four community presentations last month, and that the process should be a model for future public works projects. "For the last seven years, I have been saying everything we do has got to be transparent, everything we do has got to be above board, everything we do has be based on talent and on quality."

Mayor Villaraigosa and Councilman Huizar at the Sixth Street Bridge announcement | Photo by Justin Cram
Mayor Villaraigosa and Councilman Huizar at the Sixth Street Bridge announcement | Photo by Justin Cram
Model of the new Sixth Street Bridge design | Photo by Justin Cram
Model of the new Sixth Street Bridge design | Photo by Justin Cram

With a series of arches that pay homage to the current bridge, HNTB's design incorporates elements that address the city's emphasized focus to bring more walking, biking, and increased park space along the new structure.

Architect Eric Owen Moss, a member of the panel, explained the reasons for selecting HNTB's proposal: "People have said that the tradition of innovative architecture in Los Angeles belonged to a particular generation or a particular period of time...I think that the charge for the committee was that Los Angeles' tradition of non-tradition in design and architecture was sustained, and I think we've done that."

He continued, "The project is likely to be an important icon -- I think that it's essential to say that it's an aesthetic icon, it's a poetic icon, it's an architectural icon, and it's a social icon. What is unique about [HTNB's] perspective is to stretch the content and conception of the project from Boyle Heights to the eastern part of Downtown Los Angeles."

The current Sixth Street Bridge, built in 1932 -- despite its role as one of the most recognizable L.A. landmarks (you can see it in countless number of movies and car commercials) -- must be replaced due to a condition commonly known as "concrete cancer." This incurable disease stems from a high alkali content in its cement, leading to a reaction with the sand that causes cracking, and eventually structural failure.

Construction on the new bridge is expected to start in 2015 after approval from the Board of Public Works and the Los Angeles City Council. The project, which will create nearly 5,000 jobs, is expected to be completed in late 2018 and opened in 2019, according to the project website.

Rendering of pedestrian path on the new Sixth Street Bridge
Rendering of pedestrian path on the new Sixth Street Bridge
Announcement at the Sixth Street Bridge | Photo by Justin Cram
Announcement at the Sixth Street Bridge | Photo by Justin Cram

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