Here’s a spot of inspiration for the social-minded: The American Institute of Architects has awarded The Bridge Homeless Assistance Center, located in downtown Dallas, 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, worked on the center’s design. It was completed in May 2008. The building is commonly known as “The Bridge.” It’s intended to furnish a safe haven and social services for more than 6,000 homeless people in Dallas.
Unlike traditional homeless assistance facilities that resemble dark warehouses and gymnasiums, The Bridge features translucent walls that allow natural light to flood into residential areas, glass art panels inscribed with poetry written by the homeless and classrooms and job training areas that are visible from the street.
“With our design, we aimed to not only create a facility that provides the most basic human need, shelter, but to also create a space that encourages and welcomes outside organizations, volunteers and donors to provide the helping hands that our homeless population needs,” said Rick Archer, FAIA, LEED-AP, founding principal of Overland Partners. “The facility, which was designed for 400, now handles up to 1,000 people a day.” That’s a sad comment on the state of the homeless in Dallas, but a clear testament to the city’s need for a facility of that kind.
As described by the jury for the AIA 2009 Housing Awards, “a publicly-selected artist worked with homeless, superimposing their writings over brightly colored glass – a metaphor for the spectrum of humanity. … It proves that shelters should not be isolated, but an integrated part of our community; they are valuable civic buildings representing the compassion of our society.”
According to a release put out by the architects, The Bridge’s success can also be measured in other ways. Downtown crime has dropped since it opened, and complaints about homeless people from business owners in the central business district have decreased. Center operators also say they have reduced the need for hospitalizations, jail bookings and arrests. Sounds like a recipe for success to me.