Airway Redesign: How Flexibility is a Plus

After an extensive public process and great reviews from the public, community and client, we faced a redesign. We discovered that Airway’s aging infrastructure could not support a truss. The MSE panel straps prohibited penetration of the shoulders required for anchoring our structure. Spread footings did not fit the site. We were faced with hard choices.  We decided to flex and start over.

Below is the wingspan concept that included a structural truss to cross the span. The wing imagery symbolizes Airway’s identity with the El Paso International Airport.

Our original design featured a wing span approach, created with rotating fins to suggest movement and flight.

Our original design featured a wing span approach, created with rotating fins to suggest movement and flight.

The first steps into the redesign were challenging. Our first attempts included keeping the best of our design while modifying the span to create a similar look and feel. We did many reiterations.

Below, is one of our early attempts to recapture the essence of our original design concept. We introduced a screen that wrapped the corners and created a similar profile. Soon we learned that our screen concept, with a maximum height of 20’, faced similar challenges with the site. Simply stated, the site could not support the load.

During the redesign process we experimented with many design iterations, of which this is one.

During the redesign process we experimented with many design iterations, of which this is one.

Although we had avoided vertical elements in our original design, relying on the horizontal expanse of the wing form to dominate the site, we started introducing vertical elements during our redesign. These elements were wind turbines. We re-envisioned the connection to flight and the El Paso International Airport, through these forms. This led us into an entirely new approach that proved successful with the site conditions while creating a gateway statement symbolizing flight.

Below are two images of the new design. It features 16 wind turbines that generate enough power to illuminate the sculptures when the wind is present. When there is no wind the illumination for the sculptures is tied into the grid. Also, this design provided a significant cost savings.

Our redesign features sixteen wind turbines with sculptural armatures, twenty-four light sculptures and arcing planters filled with native plants.

Our redesign features sixteen wind turbines with sculptural armatures, twenty-four light sculptures and arcing planters filled with native plants.

During the redesign process, we reconsidered all of our design decisions. In our earlier design we were applying paint or powder coating to achieve color. As much as we liked the addition of color, we determined that it added cost and future maintenance to the project, largely due to the climate. In the new design we eliminated potential fading and maintenance requirements associated with paint and powder coating. We opted for weathering steel that maintains its appearance and ages well in the desert.

Along the frontage roads the turbines provide a landmark.

Along the frontage roads the turbines provide a landmark.

We retained many of the same design features under the bridge, maintaining the arcing forms on the abutments that are created with rock aggregate and the laser-cut column wraps that are fabricated in weathering steel with a clear coat.

We adjusted the scale and location of our planters to fit the new footprint, allowing the planters to approach the base of our sculptures, providing a transition point. We maintained our planting plan that features all native plants.

Sweeping arcs define planters adding grace and movement to the site.

Sweeping arcs define planters adding grace and movement to the site.

Our conclusion at the end of this process is that flexibility and teamwork is key to achieving design goals. Our team worked together to solve the technical and aesthetic issues that we faced during a tight timeline. We started our redesign in early May and now in August we are bidding this project. The new design achieves the goals of our Master Plan for Airway, creating sense of place, marking the City Gateway to the El Paso International Airport. We reintroduced color through our lighting design, using blue LED illumination on all of the turbines and sculptures and white LED illumination on the trees to add contrast.

Below is an image of our project featuring nighttime views. On Airway, along the frontage roads and from Interstate 10, the Airway sculptures and landscape will be noticeable, creating a dramatic entryway to the City and the Airport.

Nighttime views are striking on Airway and on Interstate 10, celebrating the Airway Interchange as the Gateway to the City and the Airport.

Nighttime views are striking on Airway and on Interstate 10, celebrating the Airway Interchange as the Gateway to the City and the Airport.

Team Credits:

Jacobs

AIA

Vicki Scuri Siteworks with Anastacio Rivera, Artist/Intern.

Client:

CRRMA

TxDOT

City of El Paso, TX

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