Brooklyn Bridge Pedestrian Improvements


emphasis design

Practice Area


Dumbo Improvement District


Project Vision

The primary task of the Brooklyn Bridge Pedestrian Improvement project was to create a welcoming transition from the bridge’s pedestrian walkway to the surrounding Brooklyn neighborhoods and to encourage visitors to explore its shops, restaurants, and cultural institutions. The solution needed to be eye-catching, vandal resistant, and low maintenance. It also had to be respectful and minimally invasive to the historical landmark bridge.

A preliminary study of the project area revealed that a large proportion of tourists and first-time pedestrians were lost and confused when exiting the bridge due to insufficient signage, intimidating passageways, and poor lighting. This confusion resulted in most visitors turning around and returning to Manhattan or exiting at the most remote and least pedestrian-friendly point to search for the nearest subway.

A tight 18-month project schedule was built around the 125th commemorative celebration of the opening of the bridge. It was made even more challenging by the need to coordinate with and gain approvals from the community, merchants associations, elected officials, the New York Department of Transportation, the Department of Cultural Affairs, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, and the NYC Public Design Commission.

With an overall project budget of $1.5 million, emphasis design’s solution was a system of graphic elements that welcome, inform, and direct visitors. When visitors approach the Brooklyn side of the bridge, pigmented-concrete “welcome mats” with embedded stainless steel letters help separate bike and pedestrian traffic while leading them to the exit closest to their neighborhood destination. As visitors descend the exit, they begin to encounter a large-scale fiberoptic LED light installation entitled “This Way,” mounted to the overpass. At the bottom of the staircase, the full light art piece is revealed and visitors can orient themselves using the primary welcome sign. Additional wayfinding signs, including a compass rosetta embedded in the sidewalk, as well as changing cultural posters, invite them to explore the area.

The system has already had a significant impact on visitor activity, increasing visitor traffic from the bridge to local neighborhoods more than 800 percent.

Project Details
Surgical interventions at an urban scale with good impact and positive effects on the community. We would like to see more of that.
Juror 1
Design Team

Andrew Simons (principal in charge), Adam Tanski (environmental graphic designer), Marilyn Acosta (graphic designer)

Design Firm

emphasis design


Two Twelve (downtown Brooklyn wayfinding system); Tillett Lighting Design, KT3D (light art installation); Plus Group Consulting Engineers (electrical engineer); Liam O’Hanlon Engineering (structural engineer)


Visual Graphic Systems (signage), Drama Lighting (fiber optics), Unicorn Construction Enterprises (general contractor), Power One Electrical Contracting (electrical)