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Soleri Bridge Honors Man's Relationship With Earth, Sun

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Photo Courtesy of Howard S. Wright
Soleri Bridge
Photo Courtesy of Howard S. Wright
Soleri Bridge
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Best Landscape/Urban Development Project: Soleri Bridge 

In downtown Scottsdale, Ariz., there rises a signature piece of art from visionary artist, architect and philosopher Paolo Soleri. Situated on a true north axis, the 100-ft-long pedestrian-only bridge and connected 22,000-sq-ft plaza celebrate solar events and unify the past and the present in the Valley of the Sun.

The site is dominated by twin 64-ft steel-frame pylon structures that together act as a giant sundial. The stainless-steel encased pylons are tilted back from the bridge structure at a 10-degree angle and are set exactly 6 in. apart so that the shadows cast by the pylons, along with the spire of light between, precisely mark the solstices along the bridge structure.

Absolute precision was required during the installation of the pylons, says Steve Boscardin, vice president–operations manager with the Scottsdale office of contractor Howard S. Wright.

"Meticulous planning and coordination with subcontractors, surveyors, artisans and meteorologists ensured that the positioning of the twin pylons and bridge were appropriate for the exact longitude and latitude of this particular spot of ground," Boscardin says. The recent summer solstice proved that the placement was dead on.

Eleven totemic panels—weighing 3,500 lb each—replicate the slip form and cast wall motif of Soleri's Cosanti and Arcosanti artistic communities. Soleri's signature Goldwater Bell, a complex assembly of bronze bells fabricated by Soleri in 1969, is also displayed.

Unique drip walls were created on site by artisans and builders through a combination of concrete footings and shotcrete walls, combined with Soleri's application of a top coat of sand and cement to produce a drip and drizzle pattern and finish.

"The Soleri Bridge project was unusual from other similar signature projects in that the artisans were directly involved with our crews on site as the artwork product was produced on site," Boscardin says. "Both parties certainly gained a great deal of respect for each other and a better understanding of the challenges each face in the performance of their work."

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