The Weave Bridge: First impressions

Weave Bridge Photo credit: Heather A. Davis

WHAT: The long-planned Weave Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that runs above the Amtrak rail lines and connects the main campus with the Hollenback fields, is now open. We recently hiked out to East campus to take a look.

ALMOST DONE: Though the bridge is open, workers are still putting on the finishing touches. All work should be completed this spring.

FAMOUS NAME: The Weave Bridge was designed by Cecil Balmond, a British structural engineer and the Paul Philippe Cret Practice Professor of Architecture in Penn Design. This is his first solo project in the U.S. Balmond also serves as Deputy Chairman for the international engineering firm Arup.

WHERE IS IT? The Weave Bridge is on the eastern tip of campus—just a stone’s throw away from the Schuylkill Expressway. To get there, start on 33rd Street facing towards Center City. Franklin Field should be directly on your right and the tennis courts will be on your left. Walk down the path between these facilities, and as you pass the Ringe Squash Courts, bear to the right. As you come around the corner of the building, you’ll see a blue footbridge—Paley Bridge. Cross here and walk down the stairs on the other side. Walk through the chain link gates towards Bower Field. After you pass through the gates and under the railroad trestle, turn right and walk down the entire length of the field. If you turn to your left, you’ll see a wooden ramp in front of you. This leads up to the Weave Bridge.

LOOKING OUT: From the inside, the bridge is an orderly structure of steel beams, wood planks and big glass panes. Part of the structure’s top is open to the air, allowing for the air and the sounds of the city to pour inside. The alternating glass panels and wood walls create dramatic shadows inside the structure on sunny days.

PERFECT VIEW: The Weave Bridge is also the perfect vantage point from which to watch progress on the South Street Bridge project. In the other direction, the glass panels and steel nicely frame a lovely view of Philadelphia’s skyline.

WHAT THE CRITICS ARE SAYING: Philadelphia Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron raved about the bridge, and so did Esquire’s Tim Heffernan, who wrote the bridge “announces the arrival of a new aesthetic: sleek, geometric designs as open in their function as the columns of a Greek temple—if M.C. Escher conceived that Greek temple.”

MORE INFO: For more information on the bridge, go to www.pennconnects.upenn.edu/.

Originally published on February 19, 2009