PROJECT: Rainbow Bridge U.S. Customs and Immigration Center
LOCATION: Niagara Falls, New York
CLIENT: Niagara Falls Bridge Commission
SIZE: 67,500 SF
Our firm won a design competition for redesign of the United States Toll Plaza at Rainbow Bridge, the most heavily used point of entry on the country’s northern border. The project involved the creation of new inspection and office facilities, a tax and duty-free store, and overall support facilities.
Built in 1941, Rainbow Bridge spans 950 feet and consists of two steel arches, each with 24 sections. Increased annual visitation to the Falls challenged the Bridge’s limited capacity, resulting in long lines of idling vehicles, economic losses for both Canada and the United States, and a negative air-quality assessment. Rather than construct a new bridge, a building program was developed that would modernize, beautify and maximize approaches to the Bridge, allowing this popular point of entry to nearly double its capacity.
Working with agency representatives, we developed a design that encourages the efficient flow of incoming traffic from Canada, while pronouncing the grandeur of the site and the dignity of its purpose. Facilities for the U.S. Customs Service, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission are provided in a 600-foot-long arc of glass and metal that hovers over the toll plaza. The concave facade on the Canadian side reflects the graceful structure of the bridge and welcomes visitors to the United States. Thin, vertical louvers of perforated metal against frit glass pay homage to the sweeping steel arches of the bridge, and offer workers unobstructed views of the plaza below. The convex American facade reflects the more informally arranged adjacent parkland.
Beneath the span of the arc are three base buildings of the same Hamilton Bluestone that forms the ledge of the Falls.