Visitors from Cross the Pell, a virtual reality (VR) installation, will have the unique opportunity to walk or cycle across the iconic Claiborne Pell Bridge and drink in breathtaking views of Narragansett Bay. The experience is made possible by the visionary work of interior design students and faculty at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) through a partnership with Bike Newport.
The interactive installation will be open to the public at the Old Colony House on Washington Square in Newport on Saturday, December 3 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, December 4 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Pre-registration for specified arrival times is encouraged, but not required. Please visit CrossingthePell.eventbrite.com.
Students studying Exhibit Design in RISD’s Interior Architecture program use state-of-the-art technology to bring designs developed in the program to life. Cross the Pell studio. Visitors will pedal through four student design concepts on stationary bikes that respond to riders’ movements, while a VR headset shows off a structure that has been completely transformed to provide motorized access.
The projects were first developed in 2021 during the Cross the Pell RISD interior design studio. Eight graduate students in interior architecture and landscape architecture formed interdisciplinary teams and developed stunning visions to add a suspended lower level to the bridge that would allow pedestrians and cyclists as well as artistic venues, parks, cafes and even a floating fish market.
Professor Liliane Wong originally posed the design challenge to graduate students in a 2021 studio focused on adaptive reuse. “Proposing a change to an icon like the Pell Bridge is difficult,” notes Wong. “Our goal was to help acclimate audiences to something new by using virtual reality to create an immersive 3D experience.”
“Put on the helmets for walking or biking brings the inspirational ideas and designs of the students into our real space,” says Bari Freeman of Bike Newport. “It’s an incredible experience that we want everyone to have access to. There is a lot of noise on the way to getting bicycle and pedestrian access to the Pell Bridge and it is a mind-blowing and transformative experience. Along with our RISD partners, we’re bringing it to Newport so everyone has a chance to try it out and talk about it.
“Cross the Pell builds on many years of previous work done by our department and supported by local partners in Newport,” says Michael Grugl, Assistant Professor of Interior Architecture at RISD. “Thanks to a lot of valuable information shared, especially by Bike Newport, our students were able to design and share ideas aimed at answering three questions: How can we creatively adapt our infrastructure for a more sustainable and inclusive future? How to rethink mobility while supporting healthy activities like cycling and walking? And how can we share architectural ideas to enable everyone to participate in a future-oriented discourse?”
“Given the recent receipt of federal infrastructure funds to prepare the Pell Bridge for the next 75 years, this focus on the future is a timely opportunity for meaningful community engagement, imagination and feedback. “, adds Wong. “The exhibition will invite adults and children to experience the designs of the bridge and share their valuable impressions and feedback.”
Local high school students will assist experiential exhibit staff, helping with technology as crew and guides, further engaging community members to enter and ride the future of the Pell Bridge in a purposefully of the 21st century. After initial installation at the Old Colony House, the VR stations will be moved to several satellite locations around Newport, including schools, community centers and the Newport Public Library.
The installation is made possible by the generous support of the Champlin Foundation, the Bafflin Foundation, the Bazarsky Family Foundation and Reynolds of Walt Printing.
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