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View Full Version : Portland State professor’s assignment: Design a café on the Hawthorne Bridge

Mar 26, 2009, 1:00 AM
Also seen on Portland Architecture, www.portlandarchitecture.com several days ago with many additional renderings.


PSU architecture students respond to challenge
Portland State professor’s assignment: Design a café on the Hawthorne Bridge
Daily Journal of Commerce
POSTED: 04:00 AM PDT Wednesday, March 25, 2009

For their winter term project, students in Rudy Barton’s architecture class were told to suspend any concerns about project cost.

Barton, a Portland State University professor, wanted students to design a café on the Hawthorne Bridge. He could have selected the Morrison Bridge, but Barton said he wanted them to design a café on a bridge that almost all of his students used every day.

“I think that put them into the role of the user a lot more,” said Barton. “Just about all of them come across the Hawthorne, so they know what it would be like to stop and get coffee on the way to school.”

Barton knew that Portland, where debates about the unbuilt TriMet and Sellwood bridges have taken place recently, is the perfect setting for students to imagine a bridge café.

Miguel Rosales, whose Boston firm Rosales + Partners is designing the Willamette River Crossing bridge, recently attended a critique session with the architecture students. He said he saw potential.

“My preference is for the café buildings shown underneath the bridge over the water because they offer the best opportunity to be close to the river and its activities,” said Rosales. “The building could also be attached to one of the main piers for structural support.

“I think in a city like Portland with such a close relationship to its bridges such design ideas are certainly a great opportunity,” he added.

Planners don’t usually think of bridges as places for pedestrians to stop for more than a moment, but Barton said the middle of the river could be an unforgettable place to stop and have a cup of coffee. The assignment was to design a cafe that served coffee, tea and light refreshments, accommodating 15 to 25 customers.

Over the course of five weeks, the students studied placing the café at various spots on the bridge – with about half deciding to place it under the span. A few placed the café above the span. Those that are under the bridge had to be sure they weren’t in danger of being taken out by a flood, Barton said. Colliding with marine traffic would not be an issue, since the cafes are designed outside the river’s navigation channel.

The timing of the designs is intriguing, as Portland embarks on designing two bridges: the Sellwood Bridge and the Willamette River Crossing bridge, each across the Willamette River. Mike Pullen, a spokesperson for Multnomah County who attended a critique session with the architecture students, said cost and safety would be the main barriers to building a café on the Hawthorne Bridge.

“The main purpose of a bridge is to get people across it,” said Pullen. “One issue would be: How would it be possible to build the café and not create a traffic hazard?”

Anything is possible, Pullen said, if there is enough money. But in tight budgetary times like these, projects such as the $320 million Sellwood Bridge will likely not have any frills such as a cafe – though he said it will have wider, 12-foot sidewalks for pedestrians and bicyclists.

“It goes back to sticker shock,” Pullen said. “A lot of people want (the Sellwood Bridge) to be an icon and have a lot of beauty. We want to get a bridge built that is aesthetically impressive, but sometimes that adds enough cost to make it challenging to get the thing built.”

Barton acknowledged that there are limits to what is feasible in the real world.

“Hopefully a visionary developer/business owner takes a chance, and the idea finds support within the city and responsible transportation agencies,” said Rosales.