As the featured guest speaker of the Esplanade Association’s annual meeting, bridge designer Miguel Rosales compared and contrasted the longstanding and iconic Longfellow Bridge with the contemporary Frances Appleton Pedestrian Bridge on Tuesday, April 2, at the Park Plaza Hotel.
Rosales, president and founder of Boston-based Rosales Partners, served as lead architect for the $300 million restoration of the 103-year-old, steel-rib arch Longfellow Bridge that connects Boston to Cambridge via the Charles River, as well as the bridge designer for the $12.5 million Appleton Bridge, which links Beacon Hill/Charles Circle to the Charles River Esplanade and opened last year and was constructed as part of the Longfellow project.
In his lecture called “The Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Francis Elizabeth Appleton Bridges: A Perfect Match,” Rosales recalled the many challenges and delays his team faced when rehabilitation work began on the Longfellow in 2013: While utilities on the bridge not only had to be relocated several times throughout the course of construction, which took place in phases to accommodate all modes of transportation, Quincy granite used on the structure was no longer available and had to be salvaged for reuse from other bridges. The MBTA Red line also had to stay open for the duration of construction.
The moveable West Boston Bridge, which occupied the future location of the Longfellow at the time of the death in 1882 of the renowned American poet for whom it was named, was subsequently replaced with a higher, more prominent, fixed bridge structure that we see today.
So, when Rosales designed the adjacent Appleton Bridge, he was tasked with creating a visual relationship to the adjacent and imposing Longfellow while trying to achieve a comparable level of high visual quality and design excellence.
The new pedestrian bridge’s name also underscores its kinship with the older, existing structure, since as Rosales explained, Longfellow crossed the Charles from Beacon Hill into Cambridge nearly every day during his seven-year courtship of “Fanny” Appleton in 1840s before she acquiesced to his wishes.
With the Appleton, Rosales has created an accessible structure with a wider deck making it the first ADA-accessible bridge on the Esplanade. It was also designed to be fluid, with seemingly transparent hand railings, slender support piers and a continuous facia ribbon.
“[The Appleton] is very photogenic because of all its curves,” Rosales said.
And Rosales said this is largely due to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), which allowed the new arch structure to be welded in place so there would be no visible bolted connections on the arches.
“I hope it becomes well-loved so we can keep it well-maintained,” Rosales said of the Appleton, which was recently named the recipient of the International Bridge Conference Executive Committee’s 2019 Arthur G. Hayden Medal.
The Department of Conservation and Recreation, which owns bridge, is slated to receive the prestigious international award that “recognizes a single recent outstanding achievement in bridge engineering demonstrating innovation in special use bridges such as pedestrian, people-mover, or non-traditional structures” worldwide during the 36th annual IBC Awards Gala on June 11th in Washington, D.C.