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Opinion In Market: When is a bridge a chair?

In Market: When is a bridge a chair?

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Robert Francis
Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

The design for a pedestrian bridge over the creek separating the east and west lanes of Westcreek Drive may catch some people off guard. For one thing, they may think it is a chair.

Don’t worry. If it looks a little like a classic midcentury modern Eames chair to you, well, it’s supposed to. The artist, Volkan Alkanoglu, has designed a pedestrian bridge that “celebrates the natural elements of the creek and takes into account the architectural history of the neighborhood,” he said.

He’s talking about the Wedgewood, South Hills, and Foster Park area in south Fort Worth. Though I grew up a little closer to the center of the city, I spent plenty of time riding my bike in that area, catching many a crawdad in the many creeks and tributaries in the area.

Historic Fort Worth Inc. recently released its annual list of most-endangered places and that list includes midcentury modern, middle-class homes in the Wedgewood area. The group says the area suffers from a “lack of enlightenment about the inherent design value of midcentury modern buildings.”

The group notes that “today Wedgwood is being noticed for its well-located, affordable collection of midcentury modern, California-inspired, contemporary homes.”

Alkanoglu said he took some of his inspiration for the design from the midcentury modern housing stock of the surrounding community and that, in turn, drew him into the work of iconic midcentury designers Charles and Ray Eames. Eames furniture, particularly the Eames chairs, are an icon of midcentury style featuring curved wood.

Alkanoglu also drew from natural elements of the creek landscape and included organic “driftwood-like” elements in the design.

The bridge will be fabricated of flat, CNC crosscut laminated IPE wood, connected by three large, interior stainless steel cables attached to concrete foundations on each side of the embankment. The bridge will meet standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Alkanoglu said the bridge will be fabricated in Austin and transported in one piece to the site on Westcreek Drive.

An architect and designer, Alkanoglu is the founding principal of Volkan Alkanoglu | DESIGN LLC, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Its goal is to create an elegant, imaginative work of art that utilizes cutting-edge technology. Born in Turkey and raised in Germany, Alkanoglu studied architecture at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin and the Peter Behrens School of Architecture in Düsseldorf.

The artist is working with engineering firm AKT (registered in Texas) and with timber fabrication experts StructureCraft. Both firms have substantial experience with bridges.

The total funding for the project is $340,000. A large part of that was set aside in 2004 in a bond program, though the Arts Council of Fort Worth added some funds to enable a pedestrian bridge.

And if it looks a bit like chair? No problem. Like a chair, the bridge is meant as a place to sit, too.

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