PURPLE PEOPLE BRIDGE / NBBJ
Role: Lead Designer
Size: 138,000 sf
Location: Newport, KY
The Purple People Bridge is a pedestrian bridge linking downtown Cincinnati, Ohio and Newport, Kentucky (USA). The bridge, once used for heavy rail and cars, is owned by the state of Kentucky. The bridge is in disrepair, and needs a significant amount of repairs to make it viable in the future. The demolition of the bridge would come at significant cost, so the state of Kentucky paid for a study to understand if the bridge could support a built development.
NBBJ was commissioned by a local developer to conceptualize an architectural project for the bridge, and understand the loading that would take place on the structure. The developer is targeting a boutique hotel, a large banquet hall, and an entertainment district that would contain pubs, restaurants, and various night-life.
To achieve the targeted amount of development needed to make the project structurally and financially viable, the project used lightweight materials (steel, expanded mesh, curtain wall, metal panel). Because the bridge itself is structure, the design aims to negate any additional structure outside of its form to make objects “float” within the confines of the bridge. Program has been pulled apart to allow views into to project, as well as to channel river wind through the project to negate lateral loading.
The bridge also has a significant amount of structure the design needs to navigate, so the textures of forms themselves have been minimized to reduce visual clutter. The aesthetic quality of the project comes from the interplay between the bridge structure, the distributed volumes, and an underslung landscape that “floats” above the deck. A pedestrian pathway has been preserved underneath the bridge volumes, so one has a meandering pathway with varied experience, similar in effect to the Highline in New York City.