LMN Architects completes a connectivity-boosting bridge in Everett, Washington

A Matter of Truss

LMN Architects completes a connectivity-boosting bridge in Everett, Washington

Detail of the lace-like perforated aluminum panels that line Grand Avenue Park Bridge's pedestrian walkway. (Adam Hunter/Courtesy LMN Architects)

Seattle-based LMN Architects has unveiled the highly anticipated Grand Avenue Park Bridge in Everett, Washington. First opening to the public in late August, the $20 million bridge acts as both a long-sought infrastructural asset to a hillside residential community severed from the increasingly enticing waterfront district and a singular new civic space with widespread appeal beyond the immediate neighborhood it serves. An industrial city with deep ties to logging and aerospace manufacturing located on the east-central Puget Sound, Everett serves as the core economic and population center for the northern stretch of the Seattle metropolitan area.

Designed by LMN in collaboration with KPFF Consulting Engineers, the 257-foot-long truss bridge is a pedestrian span meant to carry foot traffic over a modest highway, active train tracks, and electrical lines to and from Grand Avenue Park, a locally beloved bluff-top public green space. On the opposite side of the highway and train tracks, the bridge terminates at an external staircase-wrapped concrete tower with an elevator that links the five-acre park and its namesake bridge to northwest Everett’s fast-evolving waterfront, pedestrian promenade, public marina, farmers market, and the in-the-works Waterfront Place mixed-use development at the Port of Everett.

Normally, walking from the park down to, for example, to the new elevator tower, would take nearly 40 minutes along a painfully circuitous route. Now, it takes just a few.

a pedestrian bridge at dusk
The descent—or ascent—between Grand Avenue Park and the Everett waterfront involves a series of bridge-bound stairs and switchback ramps and an elevator or staircase at the structure’s western terminus. (Adam Hunter/Courtesy LMN Architects)

The bridge, described in a news release as a “composition of concrete and steel, design and functionality, nature and digital design technology” also discreetly doubles as an above-ground utility crossing for hillside sewer and storm drainage pipelines. This function, initially conceived as the structure’s function until federal grant money made the integration of a pedestrian crossing possible according to LMN, is tucked away beneath an “unlikely new form that weaves pedestrian ramps and stairs above, around, and inside a sloping truss.”

What’s more, by placing the entrance to the meandering walking path on top of the truss and positioning most of the structure lower down the steep hillside that it extends from, the sweeping views of Possession Sound and from Grand Avenue Park remain interrupted, whereas they could have easily been obscured by a more conventional bridge design. Beyond local residents thrilled to have more convenient pedestrian access to the waterfront, the bridge may serve as less of a means of getting from point A to point B and more of a scenic observation platform of sorts that acts as a meticulously engineered extension of the cliffside park.

“In its design, the Grand Avenue Park Bridge is also a destination,” said LMN partner Stephen Van Dyck, AIA, in a statement. “The bridge’s paths, stairs, and spaces create a variety of views beyond and within that make it a place of discovery.”

a railway-spanning pedestrian bridge
Grand Avenue Park Bridge connects pedestrians (and utilities) to the Everett waterfront at a topographically challenging site. (Adam Hunter/Courtesy LMN Architects)

LMN elaborated on the bridge’s unique design:

“The bridge’s iconic presence is rooted in the unexpected formal juxtaposition of muscular and delicate, rustic and refined, symmetrical and asymmetrical, inside and out.

The truss form responds directly to its programmatic needs while recalling the form and character of traditional railroad trusses found across the Pacific Northwest. The structural elements are constructed of weathering steel, a raw form of steel, which uses rust to form a protective layer, providing corrosion resistance and enhancing the bridge’s maintainability over time. Wrapping around and running through the truss, a shining, lacey guardrail also serves as the bridge’s de-facto wayfinding system, contrasting with the raw character of the rusted truss with its silvery aluminum panels.”

Fabricated using a CNC machine, the bridge’s shiny aluminum guardrail panels—numbering 400 in total, each of them unique—have an intricate, nature-inspired perforated pattern. The perforations, which vary on each individual panel, were specifically “designed to enhance the reflectivity of the artificial lighting, improving the performance of the integrated linear lights at the top of the rail while minimizing glare and light pollution,” according to LMN. That same distinctive pattern can also be found on the exterior of the concrete elevator tower/utility core.

a pedestrian bridge with utilities beneath
The truss structure’s utility lines are tucked beneath the pedestrian walkways. (Adam Hunter/Courtesy LMN Architects)

Preliminary site work on the project first kicked off during the summer of 2017. The million-pound steel structure was lifted into place in September 2019 while its sewer and stormwater connections were brought online earlier this year.

More details on the Grand Avenue Park Bridge, a complex project heralded as a “gorgeous new asset” for the city by Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin at its opening ceremony, can be found here.