Carnegie Mellon To Dedicate Pedestrian Bridge
In Honor of the Late Randy Pausch, Oct. 30
PITTSBURGH—A 230-foot-long pedestrian bridge spanning a hollow between the new Gates Center for Computer Science and the Purnell Center for the Arts on the Carnegie Mellon University campus will be dedicated at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 30, in memory of Randy Pausch, professor of computer science, human-computer interaction and design, and author of the bestselling book "The Last Lecture." The ribbon-cutting and bridge-lighting ceremony will be held in front of the Purnell Center's main entrance.
The Randy Pausch Memorial Bridge will be a physical connection between the School of Computer Science's new building and the School of Drama's home, much as Pausch was an inspirational and intellectual connection between computer science and the arts. Pausch, who died last year of pancreatic cancer, encouraged computer scientists and artists to work and learn together, most notably by creating the interdisciplinary Building Virtual Worlds course and co-founding Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center.
Pausch's widow, Jai, and other family members will participate in the ceremony and Carnegie Mellon President Jared L. Cohon will preside.
"What Randy did to connect computer science with the arts was remarkable," Cohon said. "His work had — and continues to have — an enormous influence on our faculty and on our students. This bridge will stand as a powerful symbol of that legacy, allowing generations of students and faculty who never met the man to nevertheless experience his impact."
The pedestrian bridge was part of the original plan for the Gates Center and the adjoining Hillman Center for Future-Generation Technologies, designed by Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects of Atlanta, Ga. After the board of trustees decided to name the bridge in Pausch's honor, architect Mack Scogin added design elements inspired by "Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," the life-affirming 2007 lecture that won Pausch worldwide fame.
The south sidewall of the bridge, for instance, has a theme derived from "The First Penguin Award." Pausch would present the award to students whose projects took big conceptual or technological gambles, even though they weren't successful. It was based on the notion that when a group of penguins jumps into perilous waters, someone has to be first.
The sidewall, which extends from the handrail to below the bridge deck, consists of aluminum panels with cutouts in abstract shapes based on leaping penguins. At night, the sidewall will be backlit by programmable light-emitting diode (LED) technology from Philips Color Kinetics, a unit of Philips Electronics that originally was a spin-off of Carnegie Mellon.
The principal designers of C & C Lighting — Christopher Popowich, and Cindy Limauro, professor of lighting design in the School of Drama — chose LED lighting because of its green design and flexibility. Their lighting design was inspired by visual metaphors from Pausch's lecture and book. For instance, Pausch talked in his book about crayons and his partiality to black and white ones, so the light show begins in darkness and fades up to white before the bridge starts to change colors based on the favorites of Pausch, his wife and children. Other themes include watery imagery to suggest penguins jumping into water and, in reference to Pausch's dreams regarding Star Trek and weightlessness, a rocket launch and space panorama. The 15-minute lighting sequence, which will be initiated at Friday night's ceremony, will repeat in a continuous loop.
The north side of the bridge has frosted glass sidewalls and continuous white LED lighting for safety.
On the Gates Center end of the bridge, aluminum screens will cover a brick wall — a metaphor Pausch used throughout his lecture to describe obstacles that stand between people and their dreams. Brick walls don't exist to prevent people from attaining something, but to give them a chance to show how badly they want it, he said. In this case, the brick wall doesn't block pedestrians, but is adjacent to one of five main entrances to the Gates and Hillman centers.
The new buildings were occupied by faculty and staff from the School of Computer Science in August and were dedicated during a Sept. 22 ceremony. In addition to providing needed classroom, laboratory and office space for the school, the buildings are designed to serve as a crossroads, providing new routes from the center of campus to the west campus quad and vice versa.
PJ Dick Inc. is the general contractor and Hanlon Electric Co. and Keystone Metals Inc. were key subcontractors for the bridge.
Pictured above is the Randy Pausch Memorial Bridge, which spans the hollow between the Gates Center (left) and the Purnell Center (right).