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BP Pedestrian Bridge photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz

BP Pedestrian Bridge photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz

BP Pedestrian Bridge photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz

BP Pedestrian Bridge photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz

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BP Pedestrian Bridge

Built: 2004
Designed by: Frank Gehry
Type: Bridge
Maximum length: 925 feet / 282 meters
Location: Michigan Avenue at Randolph, Chicago, United States
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F rank Gehry's first bridge certainly didn't disappoint. In true Gehry fashion, it features curving metal, gleaming stainless steel, and a sinuous path across Columbus Drive. But what separates the master architects like Gehry from the students is the ability to anticipate how people will relate to a structure and enhance that experience. Gehry took the relatively unglamorous task of building a pedestrian bridge and made is an immersing experience. One method was through the use of a wood deck. As people make their way across and back it creates a pleasant clip-clomping noise. Something familiar and expected in what might otherwise be a too-technologically advanced environment. After all, this is a park, so balancing out his distinctly man-made style with some natural materials is more than appropriate.

But more important is the practical purposes this bridge serves. It supplies a badly-need link between the Loop district and the lakefront -- a problem that the city has suffered with since the first railroad cut a gash along Michigan Avenue over a hundred years ago. Another important purpose is to keep traffic noise from Columbus Drive from disturbing performances at the Pritzker Pavilion. The bridge's angles deflect traffic noise upward and away from the audience. Those same angles were quickly discovered by hyperactive teens who choose to slide down the sides of the bridge for a thrill. It will be only a matter of time before one of them miscalculates and breaks a leg upon impact, or lands in the middle of traffic.

    The BP Bridge is named for British Petroleum, which donated $5,000,000.00 toward its construction.

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