The Dutch architecture firm and the Philadelphia landscape architects won the unanimous support of the jury with their X-shaped, densely-programmed design.

On October 15, OMA + OLIN was named the winner of the design competition for 11th Street Bridge Park, a planned linear park spanning Washington, D.C.’s Anacostia River that has been widely compared to the High Line and could open in 2018.

Selected from four finalist teams, the team comprised of the Dutch architecture firm and the Philadelphia landscape architects won the unanimous support of the jury with their bold, X-shaped design—the most iconic in form, and also the most densely programmed, of those on the short list.

The new park—to be built over existing piers from an obsolete bridge across the river—will feature a café, amphitheater, boat launch, performance space, education center, “hammock grove,” and three waterfalls, plus lawns and gardens along its roughly 1,000-foot length (about the same as three football fields laid end to end).

At a presentation the morning after the announcement, OMA’s Jason Long compared the bridge park to the Rialto Bridge in Venice, as well as a new bridge that OMA is designing in the French city of Bordeaux. Like those civic spaces, the designers believe this one “needs to be rich with program, to make it a really true, active public space,” and “a place [where] lots of different kinds of things can happen,” he said.

The raised arms of the X will offer not just welcome shade in Washington’s hot, sticky summers, but lookout points to landmarks like the Washington Monument and the Frederick Douglass House. The structure will be a cantilever bridge, which maximizes the clear span in the middle and removes the need for supporting falsework during construction.

Hallie Boyce of OLIN said that cleaning the long-polluted river, increasing the area’s biodiversity, and teaching the public about wildlife are also goals of the project, noting that some boaters call this placid stretch of the Anacostia “Narnia.” “We really want to work to create a more multilayered landscape,” she said. OLIN wants to plant wetlands around the bridge piers and will use the waterfalls for filtration.

Long said the X shape derives from a concept of two paths emerging from either bank of the river, intersecting in a new place suspended over the water. That is the key metaphor of the project, which seeks to unite two very different parts of the city: the mostly new, booming entertainment and residential district around the Navy Yard, to the north, and the historic, disadvantaged neighborhood of Anacostia (and the city’s whole Ward 8) to the south.

The D.C. government, as it grapples with stark income inequality, sees enough social potential in the bridge that it has already committed $14.5 million, about half of the anticipated construction cost. The local nonprofit group Building Bridges Across the River, which is leading the project, will soon launch a capital campaign to raise the rest (plus, it hopes, a $10 million endowment for operations and maintenance).

Two years ago, OLIN completed the similarly program-packed Washington Canal Park, about a mile from the future bridge and a bit smaller than it. That park cost $16.5 million, but without the bridge’s structural considerations. In an initial analysis, “the top-level estimation was $27 million” for the OMA + OLIN design, said project director Scott Kratz; a more detailed cost estimation is yet to come. The team will also do load testing on the piers and environmental assessments. “We’re confident that the piers are in good shape, but we need to do due diligence,” Kratz said.

Asked about meeting the cost target, Long told Record, “Everything about the design we did was trying to be efficient,” and phasing is a possibility. “There’s a lot of programming, and some of that programming could be developed to different levels.”

This is OMA’s first outing in Washington. “It’s super-fun for us to do something here, and to do something like this here, especially,” Long said. “It’s one thing to do a building, but to do this civic space in D.C. is incredible.” If fundraising goes well and local authorities continue to smile on the project, construction may start in 2017.