A Portland State University architecture studio class led by professor and former architecture department head Rudy Barton has set its sights on an unexpected building site, the Hawthorne Bridge, for imagining a new café.
"Bridges are some of the most significant pieces of infrastructure citizens have," Barton said. "Bridges should be places to be, not just places to quickly get across. When one thinks of the world's great bridges, from New York City's Brooklyn Bridge to London's Millennium Bridge, they are wonderful places to see the city and contemplate the natural and manmade worlds. The middle of the river could be an unforgettable place to stop and have a cup of coffee."
To explore that idea, Barton's students investigated the creation of a café on Portland's Hawthorne Bridge with a simple program: a café serving coffee, tea, and light refreshments, accommodating 15-25 customers. It had to be right on the bridge, but still allow the drawbridge to function (if you call going up and down when there is no water traffic a "function").
Over the course of five weeks students designed cafés using three general strategies: on top, on the side, and underneath the bridge. Half the class selected a location underneath the bridge in order to provide access from both sides and to develop a closer connection to the river and back to the city. Another group of students developed schemes that were on either the north or south side of the bridge, and yet a third group positioned their buildings on the upper reaches of the bridge's towers. In each case, the café became a clear additive element that could be attached to the Hawthorne Bridge.
"This project started with the art and craft of making additions to buildings," said Barton. "Since the overwhelming majority of architectural work focuses on the remodeling of existing buildings, I felt it was important that our students confront the tough design issues of adding on to an existing structure. The Hawthorne Bridge is probably the toughest site we've ever worked on and our students rose to the challenge."