The Brooklyn Bridge is one of New York’s most recognizable landmarks, and holds a special place in our collective imagination.
Since opening on May 24, 1883, the bridge has taken on near-mythic significance in New York City. Its striking form has captured the imagination of some of the nation’s most prominent artists. Its enduring iconographic power makes it one of the most photographed locations in New York. In popular culture, the bridge is a symbol for the city itself, used in countless establishing shots in films and television.
But that iconic status comes at a cost. At peak hours, the promenade is crammed, uncomfortable, and sometimes unsafe. Thousands of pedestrians and cyclists cross the bridge every day. In response to these conditions, the New York City Council and Van Alen Institute have launched Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge, an international design competition that aims to spark a new public conversation about New York City’s infrastructure.
April 5, 2020: Proposals due by 11:59 pm ET
Early May 2020: Finalists announced
Mid-May 2020: Finalists kick-off event
May–July 2020: Proposal development
Mid-July 2020: Public jury session
Late July 2020: Winners announced
Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge challenges participants to rethink the iconic Brooklyn Bridge walkway. We will select six finalist teams who create unconventional designs that respect and enhance the bridge’s landmark status, think inclusively about mobility and access, and accommodate commuters, visitors, and vendors.
The competition has two finalist categories:
- Professionals: Three finalists will be 22 years of age and older. Each finalist will receive $13,000. Ultimately, one winner will be selected.
- Young Adults: Three finalists will be 21 years of age or under. Each finalist will receive $3,000. Ultimately, one winner will be selected.
Three finalists from each category will be selected by an interdisciplinary jury representing a wide-ranging set of perspectives on the Brooklyn Bridge. The jury will consider the following factors: team composition; accessibility and safety; environmental benefit and security; respect for the bridge’s landmark status; feasibility; and “magic”—i.e. new ideas that surprise, delight, and fascinate.
The competition is open to all. The general public, students, and international competitors are welcome, and interdisciplinary teams are encouraged to enter. The proposed designs should focus on the bridge’s walkway, but can include recommendations for the bridge’s roadway and nearby public spaces.
Finalists will work with Van Alen and City Council to further develop their ideas for two months. To select the winning designs, all six finalist proposals will be presented in a public event in mid-July and online. Members of the public will help choose a winner in each category through an online vote.
For complete submission guidelines, see the Design Brief.
Peg Breen; President, New York Landmarks Conservancy
Andrew Brown; Associate Director of Research, Van Alen Institute (non-voting)
Marla Gayle; Managing Director, SOM
Hon. Jonathan Gardenhire; Artist & District Leader, NYS Assembly District 65, Part B
Danny Harris; Executive Director, Transportation Alternatives
Helen Ho; Principal, Karp Strategies
Isabella Joseph; Student, Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture, City College of New York
Regina Myer; President, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership
Amy Plitt; Editor, Curbed NY
Van Alen Book Club
Friday, February 28, 7–9 pm
Building Energy Exchange
31 Chambers St, Suite 608
New York, NY
Join us as we discuss The Bridge: How the Roeblings Connected Brooklyn to New York, the graphic historical narrative by famed comic book writer Peter J. Tomasi. The New York Times described the work as the “makings of a Hollywood biopic.” Publishers Weekly noted that “iconic structures often have fascinating stories behind them, but rarely do the tellings emphasize the human as this one does.” In conversation with Greg Young of The Bowery Boys, we’ll consider the powerful impression the bridge made on the world when it was built, and its continued significance in our appraisal of great infrastructure and public places.
NYC DOT Resources
Reference documents provided by the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT), including the bridge’s site plan and statistics regarding the pedestrian, cyclist, and car usage of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Brooklyn Bridge Rehabilitation of Approach Arches, Towers and Miscellaneous Rehab, Boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn (2018)
City documents detailing work to be done regarding the rehabilitation of towers, arches, and other bridge elements.
Brooklyn Bridge Promenade Recommendation Report (2017)
NYC DOT’s plan to assess the feasibility of expanding and reconfiguring this popular path to better serve pedestrians and cyclists.
Brooklyn Strand Urban Design Action Plan (2016)
A plan put forth by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and led by architecture and urban design studio WXY to implement a series of parks and public spaces making downtown Brooklyn more connected and walkable.
Brooklyn Bridge Gateway: Tillary/Adams Street Area Reconstruction plan (2015)
Details of NYC DOT redesign of the gateway to Brooklyn from the historic Brooklyn Bridge. Work included the relocation and rebuilding of medians, installation and widening of planted medians, sidewalk widening, and new curb extensions.
Managing the East River Bridges in New York City (2001)
A report from the Federal Highway Association and NYC DOT which examines usage of the Brooklyn Bridge during the 20th century and makes recommendations for future use.
New York State DOT Specifications
Specifications and standards for roadway engineering.
“The moment when it became possible for thousands to walk over the bridge, to see for themselves the wonderful solidity, breadth, and convenience… the tremendous possibilities opened by its completion dawned upon all.”
“The designer of the Brooklyn Bridge has made a beautiful structure out of an exquisite refinement of utility, in a work where the lines of forces constitute the structure.”
“The house-tops and upper windows of buildings almost as far as the eye could reach were black with eager sightseers, many of whom made use of opera-glasses and small telescopes to aid in getting a good view of the parade.”
—New York Times
“The bridge was thrown open to the public at midnight, and thousands of people went across in the early hours of the morning. All day Friday the crowds continued to cross, and for several days the regular traffic was very great.”
The Efficient Past and Wasteful Present of the Brooklyn Bridge, Streetsblog (2011)
“The 1903 image shows the bridge with only one lane in each direction for private vehicles, which at the time were drawn by horses. The rest of the space is given over to tracks for streetcars, elevated railroads, and pedestrians… If the job of the Brooklyn Bridge is to move people between the two boroughs, the reallocation of space from transit to cars has been disastrous.”
“130 Years Ago, Elephants Solved Panic On the Brooklyn Bridge,” New York Historical Society (2014)
“Showman and circus founder P.T. Barnum had suggested marching his elephants, led by his most famous one, Jumbo, across the bridge in celebration of its opening. He was turned down, but with public trust of the structure still wavering, a display of the Brooklyn Bridge’s strength seemed to be a good idea. On May 17, 1884, Barnum marched 21 elephants across the bridge, along with 17 camels.”
“This Mysterious Long-Lost Film of the Brooklyn Bridge Wasn’t Seen for a Century,” Time (2018)
“[W. Frank] Brinton spent the years around the turn of the century bringing movies to America’s heartland…including this one, of a journey across the bridge by train.”
Obituary of Emily Warren Roebling, New York Times (2018)
“When Washington A. Roebling, the chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge, fell ill, it was his wife, Emily Warren Roebling, who stepped in — managing, liaising and politicking between city officials, workers, and her husband’s bedside to see the world’s first steel-wire suspension bridge to completion.”
Brooklyn Bridge, Showing Painters on Suspenders, October 7, 1914, 1914
Eugene de Salignac
Brooklyn Bridge, 1929
Brooklyn Bridge, 1983
The New York City Waterfalls, 2008
Whiteout (New Yorker cover), 2020
“City That Does Not Sleep (Nightsong of Brooklyn Bridge),” 1930
Federico García Lorca
“To Brooklyn Bridge,” 1933
“Granite and Steel,” 1966
“Don’t Forget Ta Live Like You,” 2011