Longfellow Bridge Receives International Accolade for Its Unique Lighting Design

The iconic Longfellow Bridge has been recognized with yet another accolade – this time, the 2018 Lighting Design Award – Heritage Lighting LIT trophy, which was bestowed last month at a ceremony in Budapest, Hungary.

“We are very proud to have received this prestigious international lighting award,” said Miguel Rosales, president and founder of Boston-based Rosales  Partners who served as lead architect on the Longfellow rehabilitation project. “The illumination has given new life and meaning to this impressive, historic bridge. I hope the bridge’s memorable appearance at night is enjoyed by residents of Beacon Hill and beyond for many generations to come.”

Miguel Rosales, lead architect on the Longfellow Bridge rehabilitation project.

As a major component of the more than $300 million renovation of the 113-year-old, steel-rib arch bridge rehabilitation project that spans the Charles River to connect Boston with Cambridge, a new functional and aesthetic lighting system was installed to enhance its usability at night, and to attenuate its main architectural features. Original historic lighting posts were replicated and placed along the bridge at the historic granite niches to mark the location of the arches below. These new historically appropriate lamps and fixtures serve to enhance the pedestrian experience along the entire bridge. The historic lamps originally attached to the granite towers were also replicated and placed in their original locations. In both cases, carefully concealed LED light-fixtures were used, preserving the exterior appearance while increasing sustainability. 

The interior of the four main granite towers was illuminated to create a distinct presence at night along the river, and LED linear lights were used to frame the historic windows to create a subtle, glowing effect. In order to provide sufficient lighting for the roadways on the bridge, new higher posts were designed inspired by the original historic catenary poles used along the old trolley lines.  These new lampposts were located in the same positions as the original catenary posts along restored railings next to the trains.  The steel arch spans were also enhanced with new lighting  located under each of the 12 arches that comprise the spans over the river.

A distinct blue color was also selected to complement and highlight the bridge arches from a distance, and the fixtures were carefully located and detailed to not detract from the bridge’s historic character. 

The arch lighting can change color on special occasions, and last week, it turned red in remembrance of Lt. Jason Menard, a local firefighter who has been proclaimed a hero for his recent lifesaving efforts.  Other important landmark bridges in the region were illuminated in Menard’s honor, including the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge over the Charles River, as well as the Fore River Bridge in Quincy.

According to Rosales, the primary aim of the Longfellow project, which was completed last year, was “to address the bridge’s structural deficiencies, upgrade its capacity and bring it up to date with modern codes while also preserving its visual and historic architectural character.

“A new state of the art architectural and functional lighting system was installed using contemporary LED lighting systems,” Rosales said. ”The careful lighting design and detailing preserved the historic integrity of the over 100-year-old bridge while also enhancing its night presence along the river, as well as highlighting its granite towers and historic steel arches. The new bridge illumination is a source on inspiration on how to use lighting as a link between the past and the future.”

Since its completion in 1906, the Longfellow has become regarded as one of the city’s most historic and venerable bridges, thanks to its prominent location over the Charles, as well as its outstanding visual and architectural aesthetics. Its central span is distinguished by four neo-classical granite towers, which are the origin of the bridge’s popular nickname  – the “Salt and Pepper” Bridge.

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