Bridges have rarely won P/A design awards, but James Carpenter Design Associates' 1994 citation-winning design for the V-masted, cable-stay Wabasha Street Bridge in St. Paul, Minn., had a particularly ironic fate. Like the Ruck-A-Chucky Bridge design, for which SOM and T.Y. Lin won a P/A first award in 1979, the Wabasha Street Bridge's cable-stay design never got built. Its $55 million cost exceeded the $32 million available from the federal and state governments for the project, and the city decided to construct a much-less-memorable and ultimately not-much-less-expensive concrete bridge, designed by engineering firms TKDA and Figg. The one idea that remained from Carpenter's design was the provision of pedestrian access from the bridge to the island in the Mississippi River over which the bridge spanned. A decade later, Figg ended up designing the replacement for the collapsed I-35W bridge, upriver, in Minneapolis. Many in the community clamored for a cable-stay bridge, remembering Carpenter's bold design, but cost again drove Figg to create another concrete box-beam bridge. (Winning a P/A design award seems to sway bridge clients less than it does those of many buildings.)
Carpenter got the last laugh. On the Mississippi River island near where his V-mast would have stood, Carpenter completed, in 2002, the jewel-like Schubert Club Band Shell. The doubly curved glass-and-stainless-steel arc, designed with SOM engineers, is visible from the replacement bridge, a reminder that, while P/A Award–winning projects don't always get built as designed, they can lead to impressive projects that do.
The Winning Scheme
1994 P/A Awards Jury: Rafael Viñoly, Andrés Duany, Christine Killory, Mary McLeod, Bill Mitchell, Sharon Sutton, and David Lee.
Credit: Don F. Wong
What Got Built