View from South
Photo taken by David Backlin in December 2008
BH Photo #130753
I might not write exactly the same standards if I ever wrote a book on art in bridge design, but good solid thinking from a century ago, still very readable and germane. I don't think I've ever seen anything similar in modern engineering curricula. Lots of nice illustrations.
This is a great find, Nathan!
Clark is right about portal ornamentation on truss bridges. Metal truss bridges in the late 19th century were viewed as utilitarian and adding finials and portal cresting were often seen as superficial attempts to make the ugly look beautiful. At the same time, note that these ornamentations do not cloak the design and materials of the bridge. However, I would argue that the use of concrete urn balustrade railings and embossed lines on a concrete arch would be an example of true aesthetic design because the railings serve a function purpose on the bridge, but have been designed in a manner that makes them look beautiful. Embossed lines on a concrete arch, provided they did not simulate stone patterns, would be good aesthetics.
This early 20th Century text on bridge aesthetic theory summarizes an aesthetic bridge here: http://www.archive.org/stream/artisticbridgede00tyrr#page/20...
These are the elements of an aesthetic bridge:
1. Conformity with environment.
2. Economic use of material.
3. Exhibition of purpose and construction.
4. Pleasing outline and proportions.
5. Appropriate but limited use of ornament.
Note that superficial ornamentation is NOT forbidden, but just need to be used modestly and should not be the only and primary source of beauty.
Looking at Michael's example of a pre-stressed slab with arch facade, that bridge, likely billed by the DOT as a beautiful "context sensitive" bridge actually fails #2 (slab, box-beam, and stringer bridges are VERY inefficient in use of materials), #3 (arch hides the box-beam design). It might fail some others too, but those points could be argued either way.
To me these things are like Costume Jewelry.
Some of them might look good... But they have no real value.
These adorned modern structures hold little appeal to me although they do invoke a slight nostalgia for the old forms. Embossed concrete at least resembles the old ashlar abutments and is an improvement over the unadorned brutalist style of the last part of the 20th century.
I am pleased when I see on an older bridge an attempt to provide some visual interest. Urn shaped railings, portal ornamentation, or a few lines embossed in the "streamline moderne" style were not needed and may have drawn scorn from people who hated to see wooden or stone bridges replaced with iron or concrete.
We may at least be encouraged to see designers again seeing bridges as structures that should be visually appealing.
I agree with Nathan. There is a big difference between a bridge that actually historic or at least represents an attempt at creative engineering, and one that is an imposter. In my opinion, all fake historic bridges (by fake I mean structural elements concealed) and all MOBs do not belong here.
I am fine with including a modern suspension bridge, modern arch, or modern truss if the design is also the actual structure. Those modern bridges could be considered unique, and may be appreciated by future generations. MOBs are mass-produced and IMHO do not represent anything special.
A modern bridge with superficial decorations is nothing special, just a bunch of fakery. Instead of simply MODERNE/NON HISTORIQUE, it is ROUGE A LEVRES A UN COCHON! (LIPSTICK ON A PIG). Courtesy of translate.google.com
The use of things like stone-shaped concrete formliners and the use of arch-shaped facades that cover up a box beam superstructure go directly against what the bridge engineers of old thought. Engineers like David Steinman felt that aesthetics should be derived directly from the bridge structure. They absolutely despised the idea of covering up the reality of a structure with fake adornments to create a false sense of design.
In David Steinman's "Bridges and Their Builders" he states "The story of each bridge also includes a revealing and illuminating record of the life of the times in which it was built."
The question, then, that I would post to this discussion is "What message do our bridges send to future generations?" Bridges like these, composed of super and substructures whose design is beyond ugly and have been made tolerable by the addition of facades and superficial embellishments send a message that in today's society we are content with a lie. We are content with a bridge that is fake and sends a false message.
The decision to demolish and replace a historic bridge that could be rehabilitated (often for less than the cost of replacement) is a choice. It is also a choice to build a concrete box beam bridge and cover it up with fake arch facades. Future generations will look back at these bridges and what will they see? They will see a society that was wasteful, shallow, and simply did not care. Don't believe me? Ask a historian what they think about the urban renewal period of the 1960s, where some of the greatest structures ever built in the United States were destroyed to make way for strip malls and freeways.
The pylons in the bridge are most likely stamped concrete and are painted to look like brick, and chair rail, and whatever--the stamped concrete concept is very popular on new bridges these days. A bridge in Minnesota, I-694 over CR-81 in Brooklyn Park, has pylons that appear to be made entirely out of classic brick, along with the abutments--they're not, though...all stamped and painted concrete.
I am torn when in comes to modern bridges and slap on aesthetics. On one hand I agree that the bridge looks “cheap” and why both dressing up an eyesore concrete bridge. Then I think about the future and realize that not everything lasts forever. Historic bridges will continue to be replaced and concrete bridges will continue to be constructed.
With this in mind, I think I would rather see an attempt to add some aesthetic charm to a bridge rather than just another eyesore side of a girder or plain concrete face.
Here are a couple modern dressed up concrete bridges that I think the attempt was somewhat successful. However, I will not be adding any of these structures to this site.
1. Moffett Creek Bridge - Interstate 84 - Multnomah Co. Oregon - Stone verneer covering prestressed girder bridge
2. Williams Creek Bridge - OR 138 - Douglas Co., Oregon -
Arch facade covering prestressed slabs
Thanks. I wouldn't be surprised if they were covering something else up either. I'll be heading that way in February. Maybe I'll take a closer look...or maybe I'll just focus more time on locating those 1940s arch bridges in the area.
Hard to say for certain about those arches. My personal suspicion is they just cover some very plain looking concrete pylons, but I don't know for certain.
What repulses me is when non-historic elements are treated as being something special: http://historicbridges.org/truss/shanley/
In the above case, a new bridge utilized unpainted steel and stone veneer as if these materials were somehow special.
These arches are probably in the same category.
Do the arches in pic#2 provide structural support or are they just cosmetic? I'm not very knowledgeable in this area.
When adding a modern bridge, I consider which elements of the bridge actually serve a function of supporting the structure. If the bridge is interesting due to actual structural elements, I am generally okay with it being on here. However, superficial decorations like those that are found on this bridge do not make it interesting. To me, artificial decorations such as fake stone, etc just look cheap. Thus this bridge in my opinion does not belong.
Neither would this one as far as I am concerned, which is why I have not added it:
This one could be argued as notable given it's attempt to have some character rather than be bland.
I feel that the original contributer really liked the hacienda motif.