The Luis G. Gutierrez Bridge at Cushing Street is more than a vital link in the 3.9-mile Modern Streetcar project, and an east-west connection for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists over the Santa Cruz River.
It is a collaborative project of bridge architects and public artists, said Dave Dobler, an architect at the Structural Grace. The company selected by the City of Tucson has been working together with an artist chosen by the Tucson Pima Arts Council, he said.
“The idea that public art is included is a much bigger thing than actually just a project decision,” Dobler said. “All infrastructure projects now have a certain percentage that their overall budgets must include public art."
But, the bridge serves more functions than just a purely utilitarian one. It tells a story; a story about Tucson and its significant historic events.
Part of the art on the bridge is a replica of Hohokam charms, said Brenda Semanick, an artist in the project. We also have a representation of spices, ducks and fish, once abandoned in the Santa Cruz, now depicted on the bridge pier, she said.
The structural elements of the bridge, designed to align with the sun, help project 12 unique historic events, such as First Ever Tucson Airplane and Tucson’s First Mariachi Conference, onto the sidewalk.
Dave Dobler explains the design process: “Very early on a coincidence was noticed that the alignment of the roadway and the bridge determined that we could perhaps develop a concept responding to our climate and the sun,” he said. “A concept that uses some really top-notch technology and brings old and new together."
The bridge's upcoming event, on July 3 at 10:45 a.m., will celebrate the "Traditional Start of the Monsoon Season."