6th Street Bridge Goes Out with Splash

The 6th Street Bridge is an architectural icon of Los Angeles, and has been filmed in countless movies, TV shows and commercials. But it’s set to be torn down at the beginning of 2016 to make way for a new bridge, designed by architect Michael Maltzan with HNTB engineers. This past Saturday, thousands came to the bridge for a celebratory goodbye party.

Backstage at 6th Street Bridge
Behind the concert stage at the 6th Street Bridge party; right of picture: Pepe Aguilar’s children Angela and Leonardo, also performers, and left of picture, Victoria de Jesús. Photo: Clemente Ruiz

The 6th Street Bridge is an architectural icon of Los Angeles, and has been filmed in countless movies, TV shows and commercials. But it’s set to be torn down at the beginning of 2016 to make way for a new bridge, designed by architect Michael Maltzan with HNTB engineers. This past Saturday, thousands came to the bridge for a celebratory goodbye party.

Crowd views 6th street bridge model
Crowds gather at a model of the 12-arched replacement bridge, designed by Michael Maltzan and HNTB engineers. Photo: Frances Anderton

It was an amazing experience to walk and hang out on the 3500 feet long bridge, taking in the panorama of the LA River and Downtown to the West. Listen to this DnA for memories of the bridge and a look ahead to the new structure which is designed to be friendlier to bikes and pedestrians and make a stronger connection to the river’s edge; with Councilman Jose Huizar, Michael Maltzan, Gary Lee Moore, Merrill Butler III, Beatriz Ochoa and Ultramagnetic Tabu.

Ultramagnetic Tabu
Ultramagnetic Tabu of the Black Eyed Peas. Photo: Avishay Artsy

Here’s Ultramagnetic Tabu of the Black Eyed Peas. He told DnA: “Filmed last music video here. For Angelenos it’s a monumental spot, driving through here, picking up Will.I.Am, when we would rehearse, when we were starting Black Eyed Peas. Great to be part of this because I am a Los Angeles representative. The symbolism is powerful. It’ll continue to be part of LA history.”

Michael Maltzan and son Gus
Michael Maltzan and his son Gus. Photo: Avishay Artsy

Architect Michael Maltzan and his son Gus joined the festivities. DnA asked Michael if it was overwhelming to be the guy responsible for replacing the much-loved 6th Street Bridge. He said, “It is certainly, to be here on the bridge with this many people. But this is exactly what we’re hoping in the future with the new 6th Street Bridge. People walking, celebrating, being part of the city. . . the new bridge will still allow cars to cross but it will accommodate other kinds of movement. It will do more for infrastructure, becoming a destination that connects the flats underneath and ties together communities.”

A band from Councilman Huizar's home town in Mexico waits to go on stage; photo: Frances Anderton
Victoria de Jesús, a band from Councilman Huizar’s home town in Mexico, waits to go on stage. Photo: Frances Anderton

The $428 million project is expected to open in 2019. City Engineer Gary Lee Moore has shepherded the new bridge to fruition and he explained why the classic Moderne bridge with its steel arches has to be demolished. It suffers from a deficiency in the structural concrete called “alma-silica reaction” or “concrete cancer.”

Gary Lee Moore is City Engineer for the City of Los Angeles and has shepherded the replacement bridge process; photo: Frances Anderton
Gary Lee Moore is City Engineer for the City of Los Angeles and has shepherded the replacement bridge process. Photo: Frances Anderton

But he’s excited by the new bridge, which is “going to be a ribbon of ten pairs of arches, they range in height, it reflects the past but looks towards the future. We are adding bike lanes and wider sidewalks, it’s multi-modal. My favorite part is a 4-level bike ramp to bring people from below to bridge level. It’s really going to be a place and a destination.” It’ll be made of concrete “but won’t have alka-silica reaction anymore. It will be around for 100 years.”

Michael Maltzan and son Gus
Merrill Butler III, grandson of the designer of the 1932 6th Street Bridge, and his wife Cheryl Anderson-Butler. Photo: Frances Anderton

Merrill Butler III is the grandson of Merrill Butler Sr., the designer of nine bridges crossing the LA river, including the iconic 1932 6th Street Bridge, which is set to be demolished in early January, 2016. According to Butler, his grandfather loved driving over this bridge but “he was a very humble person” and would “be totally surprised” at the party. “I’m going to get down on my knees and tell him what happened, and he’ll listen and say, what is wrong with those people!? It’s just a bridge!”

Crowds gather for performances, art shows, food trucks and more, on the 6th Street Bridge; photo: Frances Anderton
Crowds gather for performances, art shows, food trucks and more, on the 6th Street Bridge. Photo: Frances Anderton

Do you have memories of the bridge? Share them with us on our Facebook page or email us at dna@kcrw.org.

6th Street bridge art at festival
Children’s drawings of 6th Street bridge were displayed at the festival. Photo: Frances Anderton