Explore the new Sixth Street Viaduct in Los Angeles

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The graceful forms of the Sixth Street Viaduct dance to the tunes of Los Angeles

Sixth Street Viaduct by Michael Maltzan Architecture is completed in Los Angeles, a modern, fluid and ambitious piece of infrastructure architecture

On the global architectural stage, large cultural projects and sprawling, idyllic mansions often steal the limelight, making other typologies – such as infrastructure – the unsung heroes of our urban worlds. The new Sixth Street Viaduct in Los Angeles by Michael Maltzan Architecture aims to correct this. Officially inaugurated this week, it shows how a modest transport project can be realized with as much flair and architectural ambition as the finest contemporary bridge designs.

The project, also known locally as the Sixth Street Bridge, was conceived to replace an older local bridge built for the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games that quickly fell into disrepair. Los Angeles-based architect Michael Maltzan and his team stepped in to compose a new viaduct to solve the problem – affectionately dubbing their design the “Ribbon of Light”.

A five-year construction period allowed the architects to work seamlessly with engineers at the record-breaking HNTB to construct a bridge that is both elegant and hardwearing, modern and fluid, a fitting example of what an architectural bridge should be – a fine blend of form and function.

“The new viaduct is a tied arch bridge defined by ten pairs of arches that rise and fall along the edges of the entire structure as it stretches 3,500 feet east to west. Paying homage to the earlier bridge’s design, the new viaduct places the tallest pairs of its sculptural arches over the LA River where the original arches stood, and positions another taller pair as a gateway to the east,” explains the architecture team.

The series of arches slopes outward, creating a sense of movement and dynamism as a whole as it opens up to the sky. Resembling a graceful, dancing ribbon that moves gently in the wind, the lines of the bridge feel light and fluid. Meanwhile, a new 12-acre public park designed by Hargreaves Jones Associates provides calm and green recreation for the area while balancing the activity above. §

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