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UPDATE: In light of the widespread disruption caused by the COVID-19 crisis, we have extended the submission deadline for Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge by two weeks. The new deadline is Sunday, April 19 by 11:59 pm ET.

There is no requirement to work together in person at this stage, and we strongly encourage participating teams to collaborate digitally and follow social distancing guidelines. We understand your workflows have been disrupted, so if you need guidance on how to proceed, contact us at competitions@vanalen.org.

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.

Submissions now open! Proposals due by April 19, 2020.

Photo: Cameron Blaylock
Photo: Cameron Blaylock
Photo: Cameron Blaylock
Photo: Cameron Blaylock
Photo: Cameron Blaylock
Photo: Cameron Blaylock
Photo: Cameron Blaylock
Photo: Cameron Blaylock

April 19, 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

Answers to frequently asked questions can be found here.

If you have a question that is not answered on that page, please submit them to competitions@vanalen.org.

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.

Historical Context
Archival Imagery
Brooklyn Terminal at Brooklyn Bridge, 1905. Photo: Geo. P. Hall & Son. (Courtesy: New York Public Library)
Elevation drawing of Brooklyn Bridge (East River Bridge) Tower, 1867. (Courtesy: National Archives)
Stereoscopic view of Brooklyn Bridge towers under construction. (Courtesy: New York Public Library)
Pedestrian walkway, Brooklyn Bridge, 1899 (Courtesy: Library of Congress)
Engraving depicting the final steps in completing the Bridge's system of suspension cables, 1883 (Courtesy: Library of Congress)
Bird's eye illustration of the bridge, 1892. (Courtesy: The Historical Atlas of New York City: A Visual Celebration of Nearly 400 Years of New York City's History)
Proposed design for Brooklyn Bridge approach and terminal, 1906. (Courtesy: Getty)
Sheet music for William E. Slafer's Brooklyn Bridge Crush March published in the Brooklyn Eagle, 1907. (Courtesy: New York Public Library)
View of the Bridge and Manhattan from the corner of Water and Dock Streets, 1936. (Courtesy: New York Public Library)
USS Leyte, with radar antennae and mast removed, squeezing under the Brooklyn Bridge, 1956. (Courtesy: National Archives)
Opening day coverage, May 24, 1883
New York Times, May 25, 1883

“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.”
Brooklyn Eagle

“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.”
Harper’s Weekly

“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 Nation

Other Resources

Digital Collections, New York Public Library

Image Archives, NYC Department of Records & Information Services

Image Archives, New York Historical Society

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.”

The Brooklyn Bridge in Art
In Poetry
Press Coverage
Photo: Cameron Blaylock