Miguel Rosales' New Bridges Cross Cleveland

Miguel Rosales' New Bridges Cross Cleveland

Proposed bascule pedestrian bridge in lowered position.
Courtesy Rosales + Partners

Although he had never worked in Cleveland before, this year the well-known bridge designer Miguel Rosales found himself designing three pedestrian crossings in that city—for the Cleveland municipality, the Cuyahoga Planning Commission, and Case Western Reserve University. The concurrence of projects was “just by chance,” Rosales said. “I had to compete for each of them.”

Rosales is president and principal designer of the Boston-based transportation architecture firm Rosales + Partners, and has a strong background in bridge architecture, having served as the lead architect for the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge over the Charles River, and the Liberty Bridge in Greenville, South Carolina.

Proposed pedestrian bridge by Miguel Rosales is hoped to spur a lively waterfront district.

The most fully developed of the three commissions is for a prominent site on North Coast Harbor in downtown Cleveland. Currently, a long pier juts out into the harbor, nearly reaching a park on the harbor’s far shore. Rosales has designed a 120-foot-long steel pedestrian bridge to complete the connection, creating a closed loop around the harbor waterfront that will connect the park with two popular destinations, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Science Center. Because the harbor is heavily used by recreational boats, Rosales chose a bascule design that will lift like an arm to allow boats through.

Though the current design is preferred by both the city and the public, approval is still needed from the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure that the raised bridge is not too high for the nearby airport. “Designs where the bridge opens in the middle would create a much lower bridge, while our preferred design pivots from one end so the entire bridge is raised. That contributes to the more dramatic look,” said Robert Brown, director of the Cleveland City Planning Commission.

Miguel Rosales’ proposed pedestrian bascule bridge seen in the dramatic raised position.

The area’s waterfront has been historically devoted to industry and shipping. Although the city has attempted to make the waterfront more recreational over the last two decades, sprinkling it with major waterfront destinations including the Hall of Fame and a football stadium, it has remained relatively inactive. “We have great attractions, but those are places people tend to use as a single destination and not as an excuse to stroll around the waterfront,” Brown said. As the city works on a long-term masterplan with Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects, they hope Rosales’ bridge will serve as one of the first catalysts for a lively pedestrian district.

The second Cleveland bridge on Rosales’ plate will span land rather than water. The Lakefront Pedestrian Bridge for the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission will cross industrial land and the Norfolk Southern Railroad to connect downtown Cleveland to the nearby but poorly accessible Wendy Park. “Right now you can only drive to Wendy Park,” said Carol Thaler, the planning commission’s program officer. “I can see it from the window of my downtown office, but it’s a three-mile journey by road.”

The new pedestrian bridges are part of the revitalization of Cleveland’s historically industrial waterfront.

Also made of steel, the Lakefront bridge will be much longer than the North Coast Harbor Bridge at 650 feet, and fixed rather than mobile. Its outward-leaning truss system recalls the lines of sailboat masts and rigging. Although an appropriate reference for a lakefront bridge, the main motivation behind the design was openness. “Many trusses are very oppressive,” Rosales explained. “This is a very long crossing, so I wanted to make it as open as possible.” The design choice was also dictated by the need to build the bridge without interrupting rail service on the tracks; its lightweight truss system can be assembled nearby and set atop the tracks using cranes, with no need for scaffolding.

Rosales’ third bridge is the least developed so far. For Case Western Reserve University, he will be connecting the east and west sides of campus, which are currently separated by a large valley. The bridge will span an estimated 850 feet. Rosales aims to present possible designs to the Case Western Reserve Board of Trustees in October.