It can be more than a bit disheartening to see a beloved, super-iconic work of public infrastructure — in this instance, the old eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge — be demolished and unceremoniously sold off as scrap, even if it gives way to a newer, safer, and more earthquake-resistant replacement which, as it stands after a several-year delay in opening, is the largest public works project in California history with a price tag in the ballpark of $6.5 billion.

David Grieshaber, co-founder of the community-supported organization Bay Bridge House, is firm in the belief that the not-so-minor bits and pieces of the Bay Bridge’s original, 1930s-era Oakland span have no business being shipped off to China as scrap once they’re completely dismantled as part of the in-progress demolition process, a process he refers to as the “greatest single losses of a historic resource in the modern history of the United States.”

Rather, he wants to see the dismantled sections of the cantilever bridge — vintage I-beams, concrete, girders, trusses, roadways, and all — stay in the area and be put to creative reuse, specifically in the construction of an eco-friendly home.

And after launching the Bay Bridge House student design competition this past fall, Grieshaber is in beginning stages of doing just that. His own vision for a Bay Bridge House — a tri-level affair complete with a private loft residence, an AirBnb rental unit, a public area for visitors, and sweeping views of the new eastern span from a yet-to-disclosed plot of land somewhere in the Bay Area — differs from Lee Ka Chun and Ngan Ching Ying’s winning design in the competition. But as noted by the San Francisco Examiner, the finalized design does incorporate "some aspects" of the “too complicated to construct in reality" competition winner.

Grieshaber explained to the Examiner back in November when the winning design was announced: “It’s just a preliminary idea. We’ll take that design and scale it back to fit in development regulations and local zoning requirements. Parts of it will be utilized, but it probably will not look anything like it in the end.”

In total, the Bay Bridge House design competition received over 70 entries from design and architecture students across the world.

Now that a not-too-complicated-to-construct-in-reality design has been established by Grieshaber and his team, meetings with potential investors to help bring the bridge-to-abode project to life are underway as are meetings with the necessary city and state authorities including the Metropolitan Authority Commission.

Grieshaber also tells the Examiner that, if all goes as planned, he will be able to acquire a key component of the Bay Bridge House’s design: a section of the old truss portion of the bridge. “We now know we can and we’re very happy about that. That was a big hang-up before,” he says.

As for the finalized design, it’s a bit difficult to describe except to say that, well, it looks like a chunk of bridge. Co.Design’s Shaunacy Ferro takes a stab at it:

In the design, he [Grieshaber] tried to keep as much of the bridge’s original look as possible. It will be expansive and open, with the same road markers on the floor that you’d see on the pavement of the road. The idea was to recreate the feel of driving along the upper deck of the bridge, just inside glass walls. The bridge was never particularly picturesque — especially not compared to its orange neighbor across the bay — but repurposed as a building, its aesthetic is elegant and modern.
In addition to being built primarily from pieces of one of America’s most recognizable, well-traveled bridges, the planned structure (it’s morphed into more than just a home at this point) will include a green roof, solar panels, a rainwater recycling system, and other eco-friendly features to help earn it LEED certification. When built, it will be managed by the Bay Bridge House nonprofit.

Be sure to head on over to the hugely informative Bay Bridge House website to learn more about the history of the Bay Bridge and Grieshaber’s mission to give new life to its scraps. You can also keep up to speed with the latest news and updates as Grieshaber has more than a few pesky bureaucratic hoops to jump through before his vision reaches the building stage. Grieshaber is also seeking financial support from individuals and corporations as well as aid from volunteers (and, of course, leftover construction materials!) as the project moves slowly but surely forward. Click here to learn how you can get involved.

And this isn’t the first bridge demolition reuse/recycling project that I’ve touched upon this week.

Yesterday, in my look at goCStudio’s lovely floating sauna concept — a buoyant bathhouse for “relaxing and reinvigorating experiences out on the water” — for Lake Washington, I mentioned that the Seattle-based firm is also behind Spirit Pavilion, a design revolving around the creative reuse of sections of the aging, also floating Evergreen Point Bridge — connecting Seattle to its affluent Eastside suburbs, the bridge is the longest floating bridge in the world — that’s being replaced as part of a $4.65 billion upgrade. Described as a “series of site specific island installations that allow for a variety of programmatic responses to the unusual, multi-faceted site of the floating pontoon,” Spirit Pavilion was the second place winner in the “Transforming Seattle’s 520 Floating Bridge design competition.

Via [San Francisco Examiner] via [Curbed SF], [Co.Design]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

A home built from scraps salvaged from the old east span of the Bay Bridge
With its replacement up and running, the old eastern span of the Bay Bridge is being torn down. Will a green home rise from the historic bridge's rubble?