Architecture. Mobility. Placemaking. In Los Angeles, the Sixth Street Viaduct artfully integrates a key piece of civic infrastructure with all of the above, imbuing a bridge with rare aesthetic panache — all while supporting greater cycling and pedestrian movement within a notoriously car-centric city. Designed by local firm Michael Maltzan Architecture, the kilometre-long structure is an iconic addition to the sprawling metropolis.
Spanning the Los Angeles River, a pair of freeways, various rail lines and several local streets, the viaduct links the city’s downtown with the working-class neighbourhood of Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles beyond. It replaces a bridge that had stood on the site since 1932 and was defined by two sets of arches that soon became a popular backdrop for film, television and music videos. However, the concrete used to create the former structure was mixed on site with sand from the L.A. River, a material blend that led to accelerated degradation and elevated seismic risk. There was no choice but to replace it.
Like its predecessor, the new viaduct accommodates both vehicles and people, though the new sidewalk is significantly expanded and is now separated from the road with a barrier. A pair of bike lanes (protected with bollards and rubber curbs) welcomes another active transportation mode, creating a safer — and much more enjoyable — environment for cyclists and pedestrians. The land below the bridge is also being transformed into a 4.9-hectare linear park, adding a vital public amenity (and a much-needed dose of greenery) to an underserved neighbourhood.
As the park takes shape, the Sixth Street Viaduct stakes an elegant place in the urban panorama. Its 10 sculptural pairs of canted arches create a sinuously syncopated rhythm, one that recalls the 1932 structure with a distinctly contemporary flair — and a hint of movie magic. The architects characterize it as “cinematic choreography through sequential views framing the city.” It makes for a scintillating thoroughfare and a destination in its own right.
Team Michael Maltzan, Tim Williams and Paul Stoelting with Matthew Austin, Deysi Blanco, Casey Benito, William Carson, Scott Carter, Lord Ceniza, Roger Cortes, Michael Faciejew, Mehr Khanpour, Yu Li, Ann Soo, Jose Thomas, Hiroshi Tokumaru, Gee- Ghid Tse and Jennifer Wu; HNTB; Hargreaves Jones; AC Martin and Skanska-Stacy & Witbeck
In Los Angeles, the Sixth Street Viaduct artfully integrates a key piece of civic infrastructure with placemaking.