Building Bridges

Scarcely any other building type combines technical performance and aesthetics in the way bridges do. Bridge-building implies providing access to remote areas, linking divided urban districts, bringing people together and facilitating an unimpeded flow of traffic. In many cases, bridges have been the nuclei of important settlements, and today they form major landmarks in our cities. Well-designed structures do not serve the purposes of transport alone. They are special places of congregation and social intercourse, too. In recent times, road bridges with ever greater spans have been attracting the attention of the public. More modest pedestrian structures, however, often offer greater scope for experiment on account of their shorter spans and the smaller loads they have to bear. They are also a more immediate experience. For that reason, the present issue of this journal is devoted largely to pedestrian bridges. Good bridge-building implies spanning greater or smaller distances with a minimum of materials and energy. This applies equally to historical forms, such as those found in the Himalayas (see p. 1408), as it does to Western structures of the 19th and 20th centuries. Probably in no other field of construction is there such a strong identity between structure and design as in bridge-building. Bridges not only forge links between countries, towns and people; they also unite the disciplines of the engineer and the architect, both of which are essential for successful design in this field.
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