Pedestrian bridge in Providence wins international architecture award

THE MICHAEL S. VAN LEESTEN Bridge, formerly called the Providence Pedestrian Bridge, has won a significant architecture award. / PBN PHOTO/ARTISTIC IMAGES.

PROVIDENCE The Michael S. Van Leesten Bridge, formerly known as the Providence Pedestrian Bridge, has won an international architecture award for design by the American Architecture Awards.

Designed by the Michigan-based architect inFORM Studio and the U.K.-based engineering firm Buro Happold, the $22 million bridge is a state project that opened in 2018. It connects the east and west banks of the Providence River, built upon original piers that supported the former Interstate 195.

In June, the city of Providence renamed the bridge to honor the late Michael Van Leesten, a prominent civil rights advocate. The bridge, built as a R.I. Department of Transportation project, is maintained by the city.

The award cited its potential to mediate between the urban and ecological features of the space and between five neighborhoods of Providence. The alignment of the bridge considers movement through the city, orientation and views, according to the award.

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Its construction, of wood and granite, also is notable. “Wood construction is still prized today for its old-world warmth and character,” the award states. “With modern innovations, this exceptionally versatile material was used to capture formal characteristics reminiscent of historical ships while simultaneously transitioning into an innovative contemporary solution.”

A South American hardwood, Ipe, was used for the horizontal decking, while another wood more commonly found in boat-building, Wana, was used for the vertical fascia.

The American Architecture Awards have been awarded since 1994 by the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design, the European Center for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and the Metropolitan Arts Press. The awards recognize significant new buildings, landscape projects and planning projects.

The full gallery of 2020 winners is available here:

Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at

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