One man's unusual proposal to recycle some of the 58,209 tons of bridge steel currently being dismantled.
This winter, the $281 million demolition of the old eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge kicked into high gear. Over the next three years, workers will remove 58,209 tons of steel and 245,470 tons of concrete, sending much of the material off to be scrapped or recycled halfway around the world. But if Bay Area resident David Grieshaber has his way, at least one 132-foot section of this 1.97 mile span will remain as a rather unusual monument to the bridge's 78-year history.
The tech entrepreneur and architecture enthusiast has spent the last year and a half developing his ambitious plans for the Bay Bridge House, a mixed-use, energy-efficient space built almost entirely from the bridge's recycled parts. "It's a celebration of the history of this wonderful asset we had," Grieshaber says. And, he adds, "I've always wanted to build a really unique house."
Unique it certainly is. The first design concepts, released late last month, demonstrate how a 504-foot portal section of the old span could be transformed into a three-story personal apartment, public museum space, and (since this is San Francisco, after all) an Airbnb rental.
The design maintains a recognizable monument to the Bay Bridge while incorporating energy-efficient technology that would allow the house to be self-sustaining. "We see this as bridging the past with the future," Grieshaber says. "We really want to make this one of the most modern buildings on the West Coast."
Inspired by the results of a student design contest held last fall, the plans maintain the look and feel of the old east span. The section's height would be chopped in half to create a 45-foot tall building, with a loft area hung from the top steel beams. Even the smallest details will offer tribute to the old bridge. The building's floors would feature original lane markers, and all of the concrete and steel — right down to the paper towel holders — would be taken from the bridge. Glass windows throughout the building would allow visitors to have what Grieshaber calls that "open air feeling you get when you drive along the upper deck of the bridge."
Looking out these windows, visitors would be able to experience a sort of strange time warp. Though he stayed tight-lipped on the actual location, Grieshaber is in the process of securing a site that should offer occupants sight lines directly out to the new east span.
All that said, the Bay Bridge House is still a long way from a reality. The biggest hurdle, it turns out, is securing those pieces of scrap metal to transform. "It’s stressful to even get the parts," Grieshaber says. "That’s been a nine-month process, and it’s ongoing." For safety and practicality reasons, the bridge is essentially being dismantled piece by piece, meaning preserving entire sections might be difficult, if not impossible.
If he's able to secure the bridge sections he needs, Grieshaber estimates that it would take a year to finalize the real estate and the funding, and another year to complete the actual construction. He's still hopeful that the agencies that oversee the bridge will want to get involved. After all, he notes, "this is a celebration of what they've made."
Top Image courtesy Bay Bridge House.