Robert Parsekian



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 two bridges.

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, Robert.”

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 Outerbridge.”

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”



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