What will the new Fern Hollow Bridge look like? The dreams of two artists


When the Fern Hollow Bridge opens, it will not only carry cars but also new works of art. The city’s arts commission has approved separate artwork concepts for the bridge, one at the top designed for cyclists and pedestrians, and another for people using the footpath below.

John Peña, who was chosen to work at the top of the bridge, says he wants to take the opportunity to educate people by creating a timeline of how water has shaped the landscape.

For example, the work will include a depiction of the Ames Sea over 300 million years ago, when what is now Fern Hollow – and all of Pennsylvania – was underwater and located near the equator. . The timeline will also show how Fern Hollow was once at the bottom of Lake Duquesne 280 million years ago and was part of the original path of the Monongahela River over a million years ago.

This timeline will be etched into the railing and sidewalk.


” It’s fascinating. I think it will be really interesting to see historical timelines etched and/or sandblasted in concrete with just enough information,” said Pittsburgh Arts Commissioner Vivian Loftness.

John Peña proposed to create a timeline of the formation of Fern Hollow by water on the new bridge. Here it shows Lake Monongahela in a graphic that crosses the sidewalk and climbs the security barrier. Courtesy of the Pittsburgh Art Commission.

Peña is working with Swank Construction, which is building the bridge.

The commission approved Peña’s conceptual design, although members suggested he should place text along the railing so that pedestrians could read while crossing the bridge.

Carin Mincemoyer, the artist chosen for the work intended for trail users, developed two different concepts. The first, which would be suspended from the bridge, is a series of aluminum domes that will create an arch under the bridge. It was partly inspired by the 1901 Fern Hollow Bridge arch which was replaced by the one that collapsed on January 28.

“The artwork is a ghost image of the old bridge,” she says.

The arch, or arches, because they are located on either side of the bridge, will be constructed of 15 sets of steel cables on each side which are each beaded with hanging medallions, aluminum tubes, 9 inches, and the domes, which would be orange and each nearly 4 feet wide.


The laser-cut medallions will have images of the flora and fauna of the area but they will only be visible with binoculars as a nod to birdwatchers who regularly wander the area.

“In the same way that Gothic cathedrals are adorned with sculptural figures that went beyond being purely decorative but also had an informative or educational message, this will also add a layer of information and engagement,” says Mincemoyer.

Art curator Richard Parsakian says the hanging domes remind him of Christo’s work.

A map of what the new bridge will look like.

Carin Mincemoyer suggested creating an S-curve in the Fern Hollow trail, in gray on the left, under the bridge so that walkers can slow down and rest on rocks and logs. Courtesy of the Pittsburgh Art Commission.

Mincemoyer’s second concept for under the bridge is to put an S-curve in the trail, which she calls a “meander of the trail” with newly planted trees and large rocks and logs for people to sit on.

“Like a river, the trail will widen and curve. It takes the slow path, and slows it down even more and makes it a place to maybe even stop,” says Mincemoyer.

Sallyann Kluz, director of the Pittsburgh Office of Public Art, said the two artists chosen were part of the Pittsburgh Creative Corps, a group of artists who were vetted by a panel of artists and design professionals for projects across the city.

The state, which is funding the project with federal funds, expects the new Fern Hollow Bridge to be open by the first of the year.


Fern Hollow Bridge Street Art

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