Taylor Yard Bridge—a.k.a. Rumblefish | SPF:architects

Taylor Yard Bridge—a.k.a. Rumblefish

Taylor Yard Bridge connects two areas along the Los Angeles River that historically experienced friction. In the last few decades, gangs 1 used the water-bounded section of the Elysian Valley as a battleground. As one local business owner told LA Weekly in 2014, 'Ten, 15 years ago there was a shootout every weekend. The bullets would fly right past me, right into the walls of the house.'

For those who visit today, the area is much more peaceful, drawing in diverse crowds and new businesses, and largely divorced from its violent past. While the LA River is now defining a new identity, in our planning of "Rumblefish" we knew we would be remiss not to reference the area’s history. As such, the bridge as we’ve designed it serves as both a utilitarian and symbolic gesture of unity.


Additional Credits: Mike Kelley (Photography)

The History of the LA River

Before Los Angeles was a bustling metropolis, it was a quiet region where the landscape ebbed and flowed with Mother Nature . Floods in the area were not uncommon, however, the area’s first residents, Native Americans, moved with the water. As the city began to industrialize at the turn of the 19th century, more permanent developments—homes, industry, and railroads—were erected near the river and the same floods, once incidental, were now a real threat to both life and property.

In 1938, Los Angeles was besieged by two storm systems delivering record-breaking rainfalls . The Los Angeles River had become completely warped, flooding roughly one-third of the city 2. This catastrophe prompted the total channelization of 51 miles of the river, turning the once wild waterway into a flood control conduit and, inadvertently, a de facto wall. This fortification would for decades impact the city both economically and culturally, reinforcing borders between communities that had already been cordoned by railroads, industry, and freeways. Any evidence of vegetation was, too, completely desecrated or packed beneath 3.5 million barrels of cement and 147 million pounds of reinforced steel.

Gangs of Los Angeles—and Francis Ford Coppola

Taylor Yard Bridge, or "Rumblefish" as we like to call it, playfully takes its name (and its bold orange color) from the 1983 Coppola film about rival gangs, while similarly referencing the actual gangs that once battled in the area. Our design of the bridge acknowledges this violent past—and nullifies the river’s past as a border wall—by offering a meeting point in the middle where two slightly offset cantilevered view decks look north and south, as if in a handshake or dance.

The view decks, aside from allowing for contemplation of the natural bend of the river's flow at this location, are designed to accommodate small gatherings, community events, and exhibits. The center of the bridge becomes a place for togetherness and community collision—of the peaceful kind.

Bridging Communities

The architecture of the bridge is uncomplicated, utilizing a perfectly level box truss from east to west. The form takes inspiration from the area’s industrial past, a modern interpretation of the railroad bridges that once crossed the river, and mid-20th century Los Angeles architecture.

The path is intentionally designed to appear to “float” within the box truss as it slopes to meet the different elevations of the banks on either side of the river. The path is metaphorically an extension of the city, with its roads, walkways, and bikeways gently suspended within the truss—the truss is there to simply hold this path in place.

The bridge employs the lightest and most efficient structural elements possible: tube steel, wide flange steel, and steel rods. HSS steel members form rectangular openings, and the bracing of the frame is achieved by the provision of tension rods spanning diagonally in vertical planes. This hybrid frame has rigid joints that are capable of transferring and resisting bending moments, and diagonals working in tension only.

The bridge also uses a redundancy system (fracture critical members) that enables the structure to carry loads in the event of a failure of one or more components. The use of this hybrid form allows the vertical planes in the bridge to remain almost unobstructed and provides for open viewing of the LA River along the bridge length.

Structural elements were componentized so that larger portions of the bridge could be assembled in an adjacent yard and construction work within the riverbed could be minimized.

Construction on Taylor Yard Bridge began in May 2019 and was completed in March 2022.

A special feeling it is to build a civically impactful project, especially when the city is your birthplace and home.| Zoltan E. Pali, FAIA | SPF:a Design Principal

Notes

  • 1

    The gangs along this stretch of the Los Ange­les Riv­er trace their roots back as far as the 1950s, and include infa­mous names such as Echo Park, Dia­mond Street, Frogtown,Crazys , Head Hunters, and Big Top Locos.

  • 2

    New inlets were carved out and chan­nels shift­ed by as much as a mile. In all, 115 peo­ple lost their lives and over 6,000 homes were dam­aged or destroyed.

Awards

  • Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure - Envision Bronze Award for Sustainability 2022
  • Engineering News-Record Award of Merit - Landscape/Urban Development - Southern California 2022
  • World Architecture Festival Shortlist, Future Project for Infrastructure 2018
  • Westside Urban Forum Award, Unbuilt Public/Open Space, Citation 2017

Publications