Linda Figg and Company Build Bridges that are Functional Works of Art
Spanning the Imagination
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FIGG designed Tallahassee’s new Capital Cascades Trail pedestrian connector bridge, which will be 100 feet south of the railroad bridge crossing South Monroe Street, connecting the park to South Adams Street.
Construction bids were received on March 3 for $5.4 million, and about half of this is for the bridge and the other half is for landscaping, trails, parking facilities, lighting and other amenities.
“The concept has always involved an iconic gateway element,” said Wayne Tedder, director of Blueprint 2000, the agency created to build infrastructure projects using money from a penny sales tax passed by voters.
The bridge, expected to be completed by next spring, features poles angled “like trees you’d find in a forest” that are attached to eight canopies with solar fabric, Figg said. These panels provide enough electrical power to light the bridge at night — and the city can change the color for any event, even big home football games.
When completed, the pedestrian walkway bridge shown in this rendering (above) will connect South Adams Street and Cascades Park.
FIGG presented four bridge design options during a public charrette. Getting community input “was a big part of their process,” said Gary Phillips, Blueprint 2000 project manager. The canopied concept received the highest ratings.
“We wanted to be sure it was specific to Tallahassee,” Phillips said.
“In terms of communication, creativity, innovation and imagination — all the things that get people excited about these projects — FIGG is as good as I’ve ever seen,” he said. And as for Linda Figg, “she’s the one who makes it happen.”
Figg calls the bridge a “tribute to our canopy trees and roads,” adding that it “incorporates some strong ecological technology.”
It seems fitting that she has a role in Cascades Park. It’s a place where she and her husband, Richard Drew, a retired environmental engineer, like to walk — when she has time. Figg travels about three days a week on the firm’s private plane, but her interests include health, nutrition, education and books — she keeps favorites in her office to give away to fellow book lovers.
“I love learning new things,” said Figg, whose enthusiasm is catching.
But make no mistake. Bridges are her passion, her hobby as well as her work.
Large, colorful photos of bridges are proudly featured, as if museum pieces, on the stark white walls of the firm’s three-story, historic downtown headquarters on Tallahassee’s North Calhoun Street. Originally built in 1844 by contractor George Proctor, a freed slave, it was once the home of federal judge Thomas Randall and later banker George Lewis. But it’s been the world headquarters for FIGG since her father founded the company in 1978.
Figg worked with him for 20 years before his death at age 65 in 2002. She then took over the company, remaining true to his lofty goals.
“My father used to encourage me by saying, ‘You can do anything that you put your mind to,’” Figg said. “He had great optimism and believed that anything is possible if we dedicate our hearts and minds to it. There is great power and amazing results in teamwork.”
She says the firm’s name of FIGG is written in all capitals because “everything we do is about the team. I see it as an entity. It’s not about my name.”
Figg directs her teams from the same office her dad used, an expansive but understated space with a fireplace and 22-foot ceilings. Figg’s massive mahogany library desk was her father’s, brought from his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina.
Figg was born and raised in Tallahassee and her mother, Ann Ruth, and one of her three sisters still live in the city. Figg excelled in science and math during her years at Leon High School, and then she attended Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.
“She represents the very best of Auburn engineering,” said Jim Killian, director of engineering communications and marketing at Auburn. Figg was one of three women in her civil engineering class when she graduated; today about 20 percent of graduates are women, Killian said.
“Her dad started the company, but she picked up the ball and moved it right along,” Killian said. “It’s hard to go from one generation to the next with continuity, and she’s done that. FIGG Bridge has remained a solid competitor in the business primarily due to her efforts in leading the company forward.”
Larry Benefield, dean emeritus of Auburn’s engineering college, said he was one of two members of the board who nominated Linda Figg for the state of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame. Inducted in 2010, she is one of seven women among the 163 individuals given that honor.