'Food Bridge' wins design contest for old 520 floating bridge

Sep 24, 2012

A design for parks and gardens on the South Park neighborhood's waterfront won the international competition to create a use for the old 520 floating bridge pontoons, according to the competition's Facebook page. The "Food Bridge" would be set afloat along the Duwamish River.

Update 9-28: “The plan is currently to decommission the existing bridge, which most likely involves deconstructing it into smaller pieces so it can be removed from the project limits. We have not yet determined if or how the pieces could be reused, but will consider the ideas which came out of the contest,” Britt Thorson wrote on behalf of Kiewit/General/Manson, the company building the new 520 bridge.

The competition was organized by Washington State University architecture graduate student Sara Strouse.

A design for a "Spirit Pavilion" took second place. It was submitted by Aimee O'Carroll and Jon Gentry. It would provide a space for meditation and appreciation of nature.


... and third was a "Sea Quilt" submitted by Rikako Wakabayashi and Sen Ando. Each pontoon would become a garden or park for Seattle's waterfront neighborhoods. The whole set could be assembled for special events.

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After the Highway 520 floating bridge in Seattle is replaced in a couple of years, what will happen to the old pontoons? 

  • Cemetery with submerged crypts?
  • Floating housing?
  • Office space?
  • Floating memorial?
  • A kind of water taxi? 

Kevin Lang, Daniel Carlson would create a cemetery and park out of 33 of the pontoons set afloat in Lake Washington.
Kevin Lang, Daniel Carlson would create a cemetery and park out of 33 of the pontoons set afloat in Lake Washington.
Credit Courtesy of Seattle Chapter of the American Institute of Architects

That was the question for an international competition organized by Washington State University architecture graduate student Sara Strouse. She was working on her own plans for the pontoons as a graduate thesis project, but wanted to also inspire people to think about using pontoons or other pieces of infrastructure to make something beautiful. 

Sara Strouse
Sara Strouse

"Most of the time they end up just turning them into docks or floating piers or breakwaters or crushing them up and reusing the concrete," she said. "But why not take those and create something that is useable? It’s a part of Seattle’s history. It’s the longest floating bridge in the world – why not keep it around in some form and exhibit it?"

That's when she and her project advisor came up with the idea of a competition. 

More than 70 design plans were submitted. The winning proposal will be selected from nine finalists on Friday when judges announce the winner. It will get a $3,000 prize from sponsors and be displayed at the gallery for the Seattle Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

"I couldn’t be happier with the results that came back," Strouse said. "They were leaps and bounds above what I ever thought I would get out of it. They inspired me to even push myself further."

Ostap Rudakevych, Masayuki Sono, Lapshan Fong, Tuko Sono: “We propose to submerge the 520 floating bridge five centimeters below water level in Lake Washington to transform it … (into) the world’s longest subsurface pedestrian walkway.”
Ostap Rudakevych, Masayuki Sono, Lapshan Fong, Tuko Sono: “We propose to submerge the 520 floating bridge five centimeters below water level in Lake Washington to transform it … (into) the world’s longest subsurface pedestrian walkway.”
Credit Courtesy of Seattle Chapter of the American Institute of Architects
Example of a submission with details. The Spirit Pavilion was submitted by Aimee O'Carroll and Jon Gentry.
Example of a submission with details. The Spirit Pavilion was submitted by Aimee O'Carroll and Jon Gentry.
Credit Courtesy of Seattle Chapter of the American Institute of Architects