Designed by Overland Partners Architects, the Bridge Homeless Assistance Center that located in downtown Dallas, United States has received two prestigious national awards for its design: the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) 2009 AIA National Housing Award and the AIA/Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Award. San Antonio-based Overland Partners Architects, in conjunction with Dallas-based CamargoCopeland Architects, provided architectural services for the center, named The Bridge. Given to only 17 projects nationwide in 2009, the AIA’s Housing Awards Program recognizes the nation’s best in housing design and promotes the importance of good housing as a necessity of life, a sanctuary for the human spirit and a valuable national resource.
The AIA/HUD Secretary Award recognizes only a select few projects from across the country each year in three categories: community-informed design, creating community connection and excellence in affordable housing design. This year, The Bridge was the only project honoured in the community-informed design category, which is given to projects in which community members, public officials, residents and architects collaborate. Overall, only four projects were honoured in all categories.
Completed in May 2008, the multi-purpose facility is dedicated to providing safe haven and social services for more than 6,000 homeless people in Dallas, empowering both the chronic and newly homeless to come off the streets and sustain permanent housing in order to live productively. The design team was given a challenge; to create an environment that would shift the paradigm for the homeless. The first step in Dallas’ ten-year plan, “The Bridge” is designed to meet the growing concerns of homelessness and the homeless in Dallas. It empowers the chronic and newly homeless to come in off the streets, maintain sustainable and permanent housing, and live productively.
As a refuge from the outside world, the design team created a campus centered on an outdoor landscaped courtyard where the homeless can gather without fear. The center’s design supports guests as they move through the programs, while providing a safe and attractive work environment for volunteers, staff, and service providers that are essential to the success of the programs.
The exterior design is respectful of its surroundings in scale, form, and materials, engaging the public, both day and night, by providing strong visual connections. Contributing to the center’s mission, a publicly selected artist integrated writings by the homeless with brightly colored glass panels. Facing downtown, the panels are a gift to the larger community, a magnet for the homeless, and a source of inspiration.
The importance of the psychological connection to daylight, large number of plumbing fixtures required, and desire to make something special out of a building that had been discarded, resulted in Light, Water, and Reuse as major themes directing the overall sustainable design solution.
The Bridge elevates the quality of public spaces and provides a strong visual presence within the city. It engages the community in the life-transforming process of the most disenfranchised members of our society. The Bridge proves modern day shelters should be integrated into our community rather than isolated; they are valuable civic buildings, representing the compassion of our population in the 21st century.