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Aubrey Bader and Maggie Redding created the Cultural Current, an entry in the Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge competition.

After their spring semester study abroad trip was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, two University of Tennessee, Knoxville, architecture students became finalists in a virtual design competition to re-imagine the Brooklyn Bridge.

Fifth-year students Maggie Redding and Aubrey Bader were supposed to spend spring semester studying at the Bauhaus in Germany. When they wound up studying at home instead, they designed a set of proposed solutions for safety and congestion issues on the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.

The pair entered their proposal in the 2020 Van Alen Institute and New York City Council’s Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge competition.

Maggie Redding
Maggie Redding

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, at peak hours the Brooklyn Bridge promenade was crammed, uncomfortable, and sometimes unsafe. Thousands of pedestrians and cyclists crossed the bridge each day.

The design competition challenged the participants to rethink the popular walkway. Finalists were selected based on their design’s ability to incorporate local communities while addressing traffic flow and safety.

Redding and Bader were selected as finalists in the Young Adults category for their entry called the Cultural Current.

“Using a brightly colored path and cultural markers, our design proposed a fluid integration of surrounding neighborhoods into a transportation and public space,” Redding said. “Along with culture, our proposal focused on environmental elements by use of recycled plastics and refurbishment of existing wood boards.” The entry includes phasing car traffic off the lower roadway.

Bader said UT had earlier provided them with the opportunity to visit New York City, as well as other cities around the world that greatly influenced their proposal.

Aubrey Bader
Aubrey Bader

“Before the start of the spring semester, we traveled to New York City, Iceland, Barcelona, Paris, and Copenhagen,” Bader said. “We acted like locals and experienced truly amazing examples of urban design and how it benefited the city and reflected the culture of the community. For example, Iceland showed us naturally inspired designs. Barcelona was rich with culture. Paris’ use of color was crucial for navigating the city. And Copenhagen taught us to have fun with urban design. These experiences greatly influenced our competition entry, and the college provided us with the knowledge and vocabulary to coherently express our ideas.”

In July, the public was invited to vote in each of the Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge categories, and the winners will be announced later this summer. The international competition also invited entries from professional designers.