New Sixth Street bridge will be a boon for artists as well as contractors

Design for new Sixth Street Bridge/Rendering courtesy Council District 14

The rebuilding of the 80-year-old concrete and steel Sixth Street Viaduct, one of the L.A. River bridges connecting Boyle Heights and Downtown L.A.,  is shaping up to become one of the city’s largest public work projects, with countless contractors and vendors expected to win a piece of the $401 million budget. In addition to boosting the bottom lines of engineers  and cement makers,  the rebuilding of Sixth Street bridge will also prove a significant financial boom for an unexpected group: artists. Under a city program that sets aside a small portion of new construction spending  for public art, the construction of a new Sixth Street Bridge will generate an estimated  $1.65 million for public art. That’s relatively puny compared to other portions of the project, including the $30 million design contract the City Council awarded on Thursday to the firm HNTB. But in the world of Los Angeles public art, $1.65 million is a big deal.

It’s still to early to say who and how many artists will be involved in the project or even what kind of work will be created. But the City’s Department of Cultural Affairs, which oversees a public art program, is gearing up to take advantage of the windfall.  Artists have been involved on other bridge projects but the scope and budget of the Sixth Street Viaduct is “the first bridge project that is monumental enough in scale and scope to create an iconic public  artwork,” said  Department Executive Director Olga Garay-English in a letter to the City Council’s  Public Works Committee.

Councilman Jose Huizar, whose district includes Boyle Heights and parts of downtown,  sponsored a motion directing Cultural Affairs to come up with a report on  the creation of a Sixth Street Viaduct Advisory Committee to “enhance public participation.”

In response,  the department has proposed setting up a five-member design council to work with the department, the Bureau of Engineering and Council District 14  to help come up with a vision  for the public art  and recommend a selection process.  The members of that five-member panel, should, according to Garay-English, should  be familiar with the “visual landscape of Los Angeles,  with specific emphasis on Boyle Heights and the Downtown Arts District.”

The City Council Public Works Committee signed off on the report and recommendations. But it will be a long time before that “iconic public artwork” will come into view. Construction on the new bridge is not scheduled to begin until 2015.


  1. Almost half a BILLION dollars for a bridge?
    Also, I think they should go with a design with more classic elements. I’m not against modern per se, but there’s a high liklihood that the design will appear dated in a very short time.

  2. Super excited for this bridge. Even though it will directly impact my daily commute as i cross it at least twice a day. I think it’s going to be worth the trouble.

  3. In 20 years when this bridge needs structural maintenance that will be another $500 million we won’t have it will finally have earned its nickname: Melted Dentata.

  4. Super bummed on this bridge. Too bad the present, iconic design couldn’t be replicated. Remember when architects didn’t have to make a statement with everything?

    • Architects always have to make a statement!

    • I agree. It look LOUD and obnoxious to me. And, as pricey as it is, it looks cheap to me.

    • Should have tweaked the original design for modern needs.
      To destroy it for this bland CRAP is corrupt.

      • I want the old bridge to be restored and updated like they did to first street bridge. It’s a waste of money and I love the original iconic bridge. Haven’t we learned not to tear down our history.

        • The old bridge is structurally deficient a restoration is impossible because its bones have cancer. The best they can do is to replicate it. Building a replica can be just as or even more expensive to build.

          • I dont see how it could be more then their curretn 401 million dollar budget? unless the 401 goes to their pockets first on the quotes and then the actual work would be another 401? if the city council had their priorites where they should of been with the preservation of our infrastructure there would be no need to tear the bridge sown.

            this all goes down to maintanace and the city cant even fix all of the pot holes on its streets, this project is doomed and I agree with ubrayj02, its just another classic example of wasteful spending at the cost of the taxpayer again. when will people have enough and stop these aholes from spending our money like this. This is awful such a shame you dont see this happening in rome, they take pride in their history and if maintaining can work for them why cant it work for us?

      • This looks like a tweaked version of the original design – it just replaces the 1930’s double-parabolic arch with a triple arch that anchors the contemporary support structure.

  5. Too bad it will be tagged the moment it is finished. So, half a billion for a new medium seems steep. Also the LA river will never look as nice as it does in the design work up. Unless I missed the black plastic bags, the graffiti and my other favorite architectural the abandon grocery cart.

  6. This is imitation calatrava. But even calatrava is imitation calatrava- the idea was thin and wore out after a few bridges an then applied to countless more and a few buildings.

    The problem isn’t that it will look dated in 20 years- we worry too much about that and get nothing that ever feels current- it SHOULD look like it was built in 2013 as much as the old one looked 1930’s. Our responsibility to the future is to build things for OUR time.

    The problem is that this design is copying calatravas 20 year old work so it is dated already and it’s not built yet.

  7. They incorporated art installations on the valley blvd bridge in el sereno when that was built a couple years ago. It made a previously grimy industrial stretch of road into a realtively attractive space and thankfully free of vandalism since they were installed.

    I applaud LA and their support of public art. Keep it up.

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