The DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) has been renovating the New York Avenue Bridge for years. The span carries traffic over the rail yard north of Union Station. During the rehabilitation project, DDOT decided that the bridge needed some visual appeal like the lions on the Taft Memorial Bridge, tigers on the 16th Street/Piney Branch Bridge, or horsemen on Memorial Bridge. So DDOT enlisted the help of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH).
DCCAH oversaw the project to adorn the bridge that is the gateway from an area of industrial warehouses to a new and more vibrant NoMa neighborhood. Currently, two 52-foot-high (over 5 stories tall), 56-foot-long, 22-ton, wing-like, steel sculptures appear on either side of the bridge on New York Avenue near Florida Avenue.
The sculpture was designed by Kent Bloomer from New Haven, Connecticut. Even though the installation is entitled “Gateway Wings,” Bloomer never envisioned wings while sketching. Instead, his original idea was a big ellipse over and under the bridge. But the final design is two tree-like partial arches that are not lined up directly across from each other.
Bloomer is quite interested in the details, which he feels are often neglected in contemporary architecture. In line with his vision, the eastern side of the arches are covered in foliation, which are green and cream-colored aluminum diamonds that look like leaves. The ornamentation signifies life and vigor in Greek and Roman art.
DCCAH spent $500,000 on the sculpture, which was installed in August. The sculpture is also intended to be illuminated at night with elaborate lights that change color and pulse. But the lights haven not been functioning properly.
Dedication of “Gateway Wings” will occur on Thursday. Hopefully, the lights will be ready by then.