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35W Bridge Remembrance Garden

Tadd Kreun FASLA

The 35W Bridge Remembrance Garden is perched on a western bluff of the Mississippi River along a parkway bike and walking trail. Each of the 13 10-ft. tall custom steel I-beams and opaque glass columns represents one of the victims of the Minneapolis bridge collapse on August 1, 2007. The glass columns are edge lit with TivoTape static outdoor LEDs, 1.05-watts per linear foot, each set into an aluminum channel.

Photo: George Heinrich


The Mississippi River snakes through the heart of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area. High above the river is the eight-lane Interstate 35W Bridge, one of the busiest spans over the river.

On August 1, 2007, the late afternoon rush hour traffic was heavy, with vehicles crossing the bridge in stop and go traffic. Traffic was slower than usual because of lane closures for bridge deck resurfacing.

The memorial's 81' x 10' hardscape is black and white granite. The 81-ft. length references the date of the bridge collapse, 8/1. The five linear Bega 8840 20-watt asymmetrical white LEDs that uplight the Survivors' Wall are set flush in water jet cutouts in the four-inch thick granite paving. In the foreground (right) is a granite bench with inset IPE wood top. Variegated Moore grass is planted between the granite plaza and walking trail.
Photos: George Heinrich

Then the horrifying disaster struck. At 6:05 p.m. the bridge suffered a catastrophic failure.The steel and concrete structure gave way, plummeting some 100 vehicles and construction equipment 115 feet into the Mississippi River.
At the time of the collapse, approximately 164 drivers, passengers and construction workers were on the span over the river; 13 people lost their lives. Editor's note: The editors at LASN in Southern California remember that after noon quite well, as one of our editors had just recently relocated to Minneapolis. Like many people across the country who had friends, colleagues or loved ones in the Twin Cities, we worried that our former editor could be unlucky enough to be on the bridge at that fateful moment.

The four ft. wide stone path that connects the terrace to the river overlook is lit along one side with four in-grade Bega 8671 2.5-watt white LED lights.

The Park Upstream
Gold Medal Park, located just one third of a mile upstream from the bridge, became a gathering point for people after the bridge collapse. In the days and weeks following the disaster, the park became a de facto memorial site where survivors and families of the victims continued to convene in the park to begin the healing.

Soon there was talk about a memorial.

As the designers of Gold Medal Park, oslund.and.assoc., a Minneapolis based landscape architecture firm, was called upon to meet with the survivors and victims' families to begin designing a memorial in the park. Gold Medal Park seemed a logical, if not ideal location for the memorial, but as the initial design work began, lease issues involving a private-public partnership with the city were discovered. A new site for the memorial was needed.

A small (3,000 sq. ft.) triangular-shaped spot just across the street from the park on the west bluff of the Mississippi River along a parkway bike and walking trail was made available by the Minneapolis Park Board.

Water cascades down the polished black granite Survivors' Wall into a bed of black stones, where it is recirculated. The names of the 151 survivors on the 35W Bridge when it collapsed are engraved on the polished stone face of the wall.

The new site was within view of the newly constructed bridge and had incredible vistas up and down stream.
The oslund.and.assoc. design comprised four elements: A linear granite plaza, a granite water wall, a granite walkway and a overlook platform.

The iconic feature of the memorial design are the 13 10-ft. tall steel I-beams and glass columns, one for each of the victims of the collapse and referential to the original bridge construction. oslund.and.assoc. worked with a local fabrication shop to fabricate a full-size mock up of one of the light columns to fine tune the design before fabrication of the 13 column lights.The custom steel and opaque glass columns are edge lit with TivoTape static outdoor LEDs at 1.05 watts per linear foot. The tape light is set into an aluminum channel that holds the LED light strip and the glass into the web of the I-beams. Each glass column is engraved with the name of the victim and a personal message written by their family, some in their native languages. A blue color blue was selected for the light columns for its calming quality and symbolization for inspiration, sincerity and spirituality. The columns remain lit at all times.

The light columns line the center of the 81-ft. long by 10-ft. wide black and white granite plaza hardscape. The 81-ft. dimension of the plaza references the date of the bridge collapse, i.e., August 1 (8/1).

The graphics for the light columns are sandblasted into the glass. This column (left) reads in part: "Hana Sahal was a bright, shining star. She was a smiling, laughing little girl who loved to talk to her parents and anyone who would listen. On the morning of Aug. 1, 2007, Hana gave her father an extra hug and kiss before he left for work, almost as if she knew she was saying goodbye."

As the grade of the adjacent pathway falls two feet on the west side of the plaza, a set of solid stone steps rise out of the grade. A phrase recognizing the event, those who survived and those who responded is carved into the face of the top riser. Solid granite benches with inset Ipe wood tops are at either end of the plaza. A mass planting of variegated Moore grasses front the plaza. Behind the columns at the back edge of the terrace is an 8-ft. high and 31-ft. long black polished granite water wall, the Survivors' Wall. A quote in raised stainless steel letters embodies the underlying values of the memorial. The water wall is illuminated by five in-grade linear Bega 8840 20-watt asymmetrical white LED lights set flush into water jet cutouts in the four-inch thick granite paving. The names of the 151 survivors who were on the bridge when it collapsed are engraved on the polished stone face of the wall. A thin sheet of water flows quietly over the polished surface creating a meditative environment. The water falls into a bed of black stones where it is collected and recirculated. The four ft. wide stone path that connects the terrace to the river overlook is lit along one side with four in-grade Bega 8671 2.5-watt white LED lights.

The existing vegetation at the bluff edge was selectively cleared to allow for stunning views of the river valley to create a space for quiet reflection at the overlook.

"Our lives are not only defined by what happens, but by how we act in the face of it, not only by what life brings to us, but by what we bring to life. Selfless actions and compassion create enduring community of tragic events."
The Survivors' Wall quote, in raised stainless steel letters, embodies the underlying values of the 35W Bridge Memorial.

The overlook, perched at the edge of the river bluff, has a railing of stainless steel tubing and cables, with an Ipe top rail. A channel, routed into the bottom of the Ipe rail, conceals a polycarbonate track that holds TivoTape white static outdoor LEDs at 1.15 Watts per linear foot. The lights on the underside of the railing create a very soft glow around the overlook softly illuminating the stainless steel cable rails, wood deck and surrounding lawn, while keeping the light source hidden and well below eye level.

The 35W Bridge Remembrance Garden was completed in July of 2011 and dedicated on August 1, 2011 on the four-year anniversary of the bridge collapse.

Note: oslund.and.assoc. was also the landscape architect for the reconstruction project for the new Interstate 35W bridge, which opened to traffic September 18, 2008. oslund.and.assoc., founded in 1998, is an internationally recognized landscape architecture firm located in the historic Minneapolis Warehouse District.

At either end of the columns are granite/Ipe benches. This bench has the name of the memorial, the year it was completed and the name of the designers, oslund.and.assoc.
Photo: Tadd Kreun

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May 19, 2019, 8:26 am PDT

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