Located in downtown Kansas City, Mo., over a stretch of Highway 470, which divides the city's Crossroads Arts District and the Power & Light Entertainment District, the Power & Light Utility Bridge is a new take on how to integrate elements of infrastructure into a city's fabric. A bridge to transport electricity, not people, the 163-foot-long truss structure carries banks of large conduit within its zinc-clad walls.

Mindful of not creating a distraction to drivers, Helix Architecture + Design selected a matte-black finish for the exterior face of the cladding, which has a perforated pattern of holes in different diameters set into a raised, relief texture. By day it creates a subtle play of shadows, as the panels slightly bow outward. At night, the structure takes on a completely different personality; the bridge comes to life. Internally illuminated by 52 60W RGB LED wallwash luminaires (grouped in two rows of 26), the pattern of dot openings is in the form of three sine waves—inspired by the phases of electrical current—while the background relief texture calls to mind a field of electrons.

A white film on the interior face of the zinc panels helps to reflect light. The fixtures are operated by a control system, and a continuous pulse of blue saturated light flows across the bridge, south to north, indicating the direction of the power being provided by Kansas City Power & Light. “There's been a tremendous amount of development in the Crossroads Arts and Power & Light Entertainment Districts the past several years,” explains Michael Heule, founding principal of Helix Architecture + Design. “This structure had to be more than just a utility bridge, it had to give something back to the community.” And it does. Celebrating the energy it transmits, the functional nature of light is transformed into art.

Jury Comments: An interesting concept. • There is a simplicity of execution in the architecture and the lighting that results in a great effect. • The design accomplishes a lot with a small budget.