Steven Holl's Gymnasium Bridge was one of six proposals commissioned by the Wave Hill Center for a bridge between New York's impoverished South Bronx neighborhoods and the parkland of Randall's Island. The project, for four intersecting and overlapping bridges containing usable space as well as acting as passageways, was intended to foster economic development: in Holl's scheme, community members would earn incomes by working on organized recreational activities housed in the bridges—rowing, ice skating, basketball, boxing, and so on—and these activities would in turn attract visitors and custom to the area. Thus the Gymnasium Bridge would not only serve a physical purpose but act as "a vehicle from which destitute persons can reenter society."
This drawing shows three views of the bridge: a plan of the upper level of the main span, a plan of the lower level of all four bridges, and an exterior perspective. The plan of the lower level doubles as a site plan and is continuous with the exterior perspective, while the plan of the upper level is isolated at the top of the drawing. The predominance of the site plan reflects Holl's belief that "architecture and site should have an experiential connection, a metaphysical link, a poetic link." The darkness of the site contrasts with the luminosity of the structure, casting the bridge as a beacon of hope in the community.
This was an early project for Holl. Drawing has always been an important tool in his conception and development of his projects; his renderings, often in watercolor, illustrate his understanding of how the senses perceive architectural spaces. Phenomenology has made appearances in Holl's writings, and as a result of his focus on the human relationship to architecture, his practice is often linked to this philosophical study of reality as it is understood and experienced by the human consciousness.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Melanie Domino, in Matilda McQuaid, ed., Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, p. 188.