Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R)’s United States Olympic & Paralympic Museum (USOPM) officially began welcoming the fully masked-up and socially distanced public last July in Colorado Springs, Colorado, after its planned opening was pushed back from May due to the coronavirus pandemic. It wasn’t until this past week on July 1, however, that the larger project made its full formal debut with the opening of a 250-foot-long pedestrian bridge connecting the spiraling, 60,000-square-foot museum to the adjacent America the Beautiful Park.
Also designed by DS+R, the 550-ton sculptural steel span, which was carefully hoisted into place last October above an active rail yard bisecting the museum campus and the park, is comprised of two interlocked, oculus-forming loops. According to DS+R, the bridge was inspired by the “gravity-defying motion of athletes.”
“We were thrilled to witness members of the Colorado Springs community take ownership of this unique bridge, not just as a means of connecting point A to B, but as a new landmark,” said DS+R partner-in-charge Benjamin Gilmartin. “Families paused at the oculus to take in views of the museum, the park, and the majestic mountain ranges of Pikes Peak. Cyclists gliding along its 250-foot length reached out to touch its smooth curving steel arch. And on this special Independence Day weekend, visitors marveled not only at the trains they were hovering above, but at an amazing display of fireworks in the distance.”
As previously noted by AN, the $20 million prefabricated bridge—once known as the Southwest Downtown Pedestrian Bridge and now called the Park Union Bridge—provides a long-sought pedestrian connection between downtown Colorado Springs and America the Beautiful Park. The crowd-drawing (but somewhat isolated) 30-acre green space includes a large children’s “fantasy” play area and the Julie Penrose Fountain, also known as Continuum, designed by artist Bill Burgess in collaboration with architect David Barber. Wedged between train tracks and Ronald Reagan Highway, the park is situated on the western periphery of the city’s urban center, a once-gritty industrial area undergoing a major transformation thanks in part to the arrival of the new $91 million USOPM. Monument Creek and Pikes Peak Greenway Trail flank the park on its western edge while the museum serves as a gateway of sorts into downtown Colorado Springs and beyond. Referred to as “the most interesting addition to our city’s urban core in decades,” by Chris Jenkins of Norwood Development, the redevelopment zone southwest of downtown Colorado Springs, Park Union, will ultimately give way to new housing, hotels, retail, and convention space.
“The bridge takes us places physically from downtown Colorado Springs and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum over a river or railroad tracks, to a beautiful park at the confluence of two creeks in a majestic view of Pikes Peak,” said Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers in a statement. “It unites a city and a park, and I confidently predict it will be among the most iconic and most photographed landmarks in Olympic City USA.”
Nestled at the base of Pikes Peak, the fast-growing Colorado Springs is the second-most populous city in the Centennial State and home to a multitude of national sports governing bodies and associated facilities, including the United States Olympic Committee, the United States Olympic Training Center, USA Swimming, and others.
The bridge, which like the museum places an utmost importance on being accessible to users of all ages and abilities, was constructed in Houston by King Fabrication and then transported in pieces to Colorado Springs last June where it was assembled and fitted out in an area adjacent to the rail yard. Denver-based Anderson Mason Dale Architects served as architect of record on both the USOPM and the Park Union Bridge. Arup, which provided numerous services for the museum, acted as the structural engineer for the bridge.
While the USOPM has been, as mentioned, open for nearly a full year, the completion of Park Union Bridge, marked by a civic dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony, provided Colorado Springs with a second chance to celebrate the project on a larger and more festive scale; the museum’s opening was largely muted due to the health and safety limitations on public gatherings that were in place at the time and have largely since eased. (The museum itself is still observing a number of COVID-19 safety measures including timed ticketing, attendance caps in individual galleries, the requirement that non-vaccinated visitors wear face coverings, and the distribution of keepsake styluses for visitors to use on touchscreen displays and other interactive surfaces.)
Despite opening its doors amid a global pandemic and the challenges that came along with that, the USOPM was named as the country’s Best New Attraction in 2020 by USA Today readers in its 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards.