One particular memory stands out from the
35 years spent mostly with the Engineering Department in the
Architectural Group. It involves a certain very special bridge. Actually
Our offices were on the 72nd floor in the
North Twin Tower. Since being trained in visual design and Graphics, my
Unit, Graphic Design, supported the architects in a variety of ways:
creating presentation materials for new Facilities, designing signs and
way finding, crafting façade design and color selections. Because the
architects inhabited a minority population in a sea of engineers, we
endured a fair amount of professional ribbing, from the engineers, but
also, the chance to do interesting projects.
At some point a bridge, sign frame, truss
or façade had to have not just a specialized material chosen, but a
color selection assigned to it. Consequently, one of the taunts that the
Chief Architect, Shelly Wander, often had to endure was, “Hey Mr.
Architect, what’s the color of the week?” In my experience, going back
to Art School, “color,” though I loved, was something most architects
were terrified of Black, white, gray, maybe, but color, yikes!
One day a project came along: it was
repainting the Outerbridge Crossing. The bridge sported a chalking,
fading, rusting dirty pale blue, like old pajamas. It was determined
that a durable olethatic urethane would be used with red zinc
undercoating in the refurbishment.
I was given the assignment to color study
this fraught project. All manner of folks were watching the
progress. We had to have a solid presentation. Permission was granted
and Gil Dillon gave the word that aerial photography was needed to show
the Line Department our schemes clearly over shots of the actual bridge.
Principal Architect Bob Davidson’s response when I told him I would be
with the photo team in a PA helicopter was, ”You’re on your own,
My inclination was to go classic. In the
archives we found that all Port Authority of New York Facilities were at
one time painted metallic “Silver bright”, a color that did not exist in
urethane. But there was a lovely, light, warm gray called “Pewter Cup.”
Presentation boards were produced, color accepted, bridge painted, and
looked striking in the landscape for a good while.
A few years later when it was time to
repaint the George, it was easy: “Let’s go with what we used on the
And that’s how I came to choose the color
of the George Washington Bridge.
I was telling the story to my niece one day, while driving over. “Oh
yeah,” she said, “Battleship Gray”