The Bridge On The River Arkansas

A few years ago the city tore down the Harry Street Bridge.  I was sure they would put up a generic structure with no charm. It turns out the city went all in… giving the southside a really cool bridge.  The three lane bridge spans the river and features six giant fishing birds reimagined in a metal origami piece that stands tall all day and literally glows through the night.

To truly appreciate the installations you have to get up close.  I visited the bridge during the day and again at night. I’m afraid the pictures don’t do justice to the size of these birds. I loved that these very hard stark pieces glow warm with the colored lights.  I was also impressed to find a spider had made its nest in one of these birds, adding some unique pictures to the project.

Kent Thomas Williams was the man behind the aesthetics of the bridge and he told me it was one of those projects where everyone and everything came together and turned it into something pretty cool.

Kent mentioned the area is just far enough from downtown, it does not have a lot of public art, and with the support of the district’s city councilperson who said, “yeah we need beautiful things in our part of the city too.” The team went to work.

Kent told me, the inspiration was how the river gets more wild the further you get from downtown and past the Lincoln street dam. “You start seeing big fishing birds like the herons and the snowy egrets down there… so we took the ideas of the long neck, crane, and fishing birds as inspiration.”

The team of Williams, WSP Engineer Abdul Hamada and city engineer Shawn Mellies, thought the scale of a real life crane would only be visible if you were walking along the river.  They wanted something you could see driving down McLean or in the neighborhood to the east of the bridge.

Williams thought, “let’s do something representative of these birds, out of something like origami. Instead of paper it’s like ½ inch plated steel origami.”  

The engineers thought it was a good idea.  Williams didn’t just want to have the birds attached to the bridge.  “We can’t just attach these sculptures, we need to let these folded planes extend down the piers and into the river to create a bridge that is holistic and self aware.”

Williams said there is a “sense that the piers themselves are very unusual and they give you this idea of a folded plane from top to bottom and that there is integration between the different  materials from top to bottom.” 

That same idea could be said of how the team worked together on the bridge as Williams said, ”that’s where we all thought it was successful to get that level of dialogue between the project aesthetics, me, and the project structure engineer who was Abdul and the city’s staff whose job was to keep it on budget.”   

So thanks to the awesome team… South siders have their own unique art installation that rivals any of the other modern bridges in Wichita.

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