Bridging Community Through Design

Over the years, Wagner Murray has remained dedicated to strategically incorporating art, light, and color into our design projects, as a way of connecting people to the environment around them.  This approach has since earned the moniker “placemaking”. Art integration not only supports overall neighborhood beautification, but also helps to improve social well-being and economic development. Studies have shown that public art can foster a sense of pride in one’s community, thus increasing trust and belief in civic engagement. This type of project approach gives us the opportunity to really have an impact on the local community in which we belong.

“This type of project approach gives us the opportunity to really have an impact on the local community in which we belong”

There is a ground swell of support among both Private and Public Developers for the integration of artistic design elements in public spaces. Wagner Murray has been at the forefront of this “placemaking” approach since our work on the Seventh Street Parking Deck (2001) and The Green (2002). It was no surprise then, when our firm was consulted to create a series of impressionable design features for three North Carolina railroad bridges in uptown Charlotte.

Bridge Site Plan

The three bridges will be on Fourth, Fifth, and Trade streets on the west side of uptown, along a Norfolk Southern line and future home of the Multi-Modal Charlotte Gateway Station– a critical element in Charlotte’s 2030 Transit Corridor System Plan. The future station will consolidate public transportation modes bringing together the following transit systems in a central location:

5th Street Bridge – Day Rendering
  • Amtrak train service
  • CATS local and express bus services
  • LYNX Gold Line Streetcar service
  • LYNX Future Lines
  • InterCity bus services
  • Taxi and ridesharing services
  • Improved bicycle and pedestrian access

The city’s vision for this development is to provide both long-distance travelers and local residents with greater accessibility throughout the region, via improved passenger experience, reduction in travel time, and connection to nearby attractions and modern amenities. This project is a prime opportunity to utilize an art-centric approach, allowing public art to foster community and accomplish the city’s vision.

Trade Street Bridge – Day Rendering

With the concept of transportation embedded in this project, we wanted to emphasize the idea of movement in an abstract and artistic way. Color, pattern, and scale were all carefully implemented to consider the visual experience of those encountering the bridges by various modes of transit. The 12” wide fins that make up the guard rail are each placed at a slight angle to the next, creating an undulating wave of movement down the bridge’s edge. Further enforcing this gesture, each bridge railing will be painted a series of colors fading and transitioning into one another for an ombre effect. Under the bridge, colorful mosaic tiles on the support walls create a playful graphic for passersby.

4th Street Bridge – Night Rendering

The last, and potentially most dynamic design element, are the stimulating light features. Over 500 animated and color-changing fixtures are incorporated into the design, giving each bridge its own unique experience. The LED fixtures can be programmed to slowly change colors in an optical show, or set to support local events or holidays. Although a striking visual feature, lighting is also a crucial functional component in order to make people feel safe and comfortable.

5th Street Bridge – Night Rendering

When all these design elements come together it proves to create a truly engaging and inspiring effect. Bridge construction is slated to be underway by late 2018, and complete by 2020. We are proud and excited to be a part of this incredible project, and hope it will prove to become a destination for the city. As partner David Wagner says, “It’s our mission to impact the senses through design, and make people feel something special – something elevated.”

Trade Street Bridge – Night Rendering