Since 2013 student teams in five different classes have contributed ideas to Washington DC’s most exciting new infrastructure project, the 11th Street Bridge Park. This elevated park, scheduled to open in 2023, will transform an obsolete freeway bridge into an iconic civic space with significant environmental, community, economic development and public health benefits. Fundamental goals of the project are reconnecting DC residents to the Anacostia River and strengthening the linkage between the Capital Hill and historic Anacostia neighborhoods on either side.
- Urban Design Studio
- Transportation Case Study
- Economic Development Studio
- Public Engagement Module
- 21st Century Play Spaces
“During our deliberations, the entire jury was so impressed with your students’ work which served as a critical piece of information as they made their final selection… they played a significant role in the decision making process. The data was presented clearly and concisely while being easy to digest quickly.”Scott Kratz, Project Director
Urban Design Studio
In Spring 2013 students in an Urban Design Studio led by Professor of Practice Elizabeth Morton produced three reports, which they presented at a well-attended community forum at THEARC, home of the project’s nonprofit sponsor Building Bridges Across the River in southeast Washington. Topics of the reports included: demographic analysis and recreational resources assessment in census tracts surrounding the site; recommendations on access, walkability and wayfinding.
- People, Places and Plans includes an analysis of demographic characteristics of census tracts adjacent to the proposed park and an assessment of the types of recreational and cultural resources now available to residents.
- Access, Walkability and Wayfinding provides recommendations on issues that relate to the experience of getting to the 11th Street Bridge Park.
- Elevated Parks on the Rise presents six case studies of projects with similarities to and lessons for the park, looking closely at site context; the planning process; management, operations and programming; and site design considerations.
Transportation Case Study
The same semester, the Bridge Park project was incorporated into Professor Ralph Buehler’s Transportation Planning class, so students could apply their specialized knowledge on pedestrian and bike access to a real world case study.
Economic Development Studio
In Fall 2013, the park was the subject of Professor Maggie Cowell’s Economic Development Studio. Using qualitative data and case study analysis, the project team made a well-received presentation which focused on three issues:
- The nature and impact of new developments happening in the project area and the ways they can be leveraged to complement community economic development related to the Bridge Park.
- The role that Anacostia small businesses might play in the Bridge Park and methods to ensure and incentivize local hiring practices and capture value within the neighborhood.
- The tools and strategies that might be available to secure sustainable funding for park operation and maintenance.
The reports have assisted in the planning for the park, inspired a project funding proposal and provided background for a highly publicized national competition.
“Taking this module gave me insights into the complexities of surveying, particularly in physical design. Through the survey process I could see that respondents were taking in the images critically based on accessibility, cost, and family friendliness.”Jaqueline Canales, MURP student
Public Engagement Module
In fall 2014, Dr. Morton offered an innovative “rapid response” one credit module, in which students worked intensely over the course of one weekend to compile and analyze public responses to entries in an exhibit of the proposals by competition finalists.
According to project director Scott Kratz, student engagement at the three exhibit sites, two of which were in underserved neighborhoods, significantly increased the quality and quantity of the survey responses.
21st Century Play Spaces
In the Spring 2016 Urban Design Studio, Dr. Morton and her students worked with the 11th Street Bridge Park Project (Bridge Park) and the National Park Service (NPS) to generate ideas for 21st‐century play spaces in two prominent DC locations; one of them was the 11th Street Bridge Park.
The 11th Street Bridge Park, an ambitious addition to Washington, DC’s expansive park system, will cross the Anacostia River and unite the Anacostia/Fairlawn neighborhoods and Capitol Hill/Navy Yard neighborhoods. A partnership of the architectural firm OMA and landscape architecture firm OLIN created a conceptual design which emphasizes the connection made between the two parts of the city. The recommendations and conceptual designs in this report are rooted in a rich literature of active play and numerous case studies and examples from around the world of dynamic parks and play spaces. The unique setting of an elevated, manufactured structure required careful study of innovative approaches and their theory and rationale. The result is a park that invites people of all ages to play, provokes curiosity, inspires awe, and encourages movement.
Goals of the three-member 11th Street Bridge Park studio team included synthesis of material park characteristics that stress active recreation and multi-generational opportunities, with regard for particular demographics and the needs of likely users. Students observed the site and reviewed material on site conditions in nearby park space. The group examined both site conditions and the design principles of the proposed project and design approach of OMA/OLIN. Students identified projects with similar goals and conducted interviews on topics of interest to the 11th Street Bridge Park client such as operations and maintenance, costs, lessons learned, etc.
Following a thorough analysis, students proposed design elements and schematic design proposals for the space; they offered research-based conceptual designs and recommendations for specific play spaces, along with incorporation of play and movement across the park. The team developed proposals for enhancements and additional features to further play and movement throughout the park.
Overall, the team developed seven themes to guide their proposals:
- Community Connections
- Multi-generational Exploration
- Art and Sculpture as Play
- Participation and Movement
- Competition and Cooperation
- Curiosity and Education
- Water and the Anacostia River
The team proposed integrated programming and focused on providing play opportunities for multiple users and age groups.