As a part of my job, I do engage with the design of lots of structural components used on bridges like bridge bearings. The literature and work-related adherences normally intimidate me to see bridges with a very technical eye. Along with the technicality and the engineering behind them, it was really interesting to take a listen at this wonderful TED talk by Ian Firth, the famous British structural engineer and bridge designer which interestingly wasn’t about technical jargon, but the spirit behind why bridges are built and the beauty and passion that has to subsumed with the design, engineering and procurement behind them.
As he says in the talk, bridges are not just a safe way about a river or an obstacle, they shout about connectivity and community. He quotes several examples of how bridges empower people and communities. He walks us through the history of bridge construction and the different materials and technology options used during those times as well as brilliant synergies of architecture and engineering with examples of cable suspension bridges and fiber reinforced concrete to sculpt marvelous concrete bridges, that often becomes part and symbol of the regional landscape of certain places. I really loved the wonderful postulation of building bridges that are beautiful and elegant and at the same time are safe, durable, functional and serviceable. He says:
” We tend to design bridges for 100 years plus. They’re going to be there for an awfully long time. Nobody is going to remember the cost. Nobody will remember whether it overran a few months.But if it’s ugly or just dull,it will always be ugly or dull. Bridges — beauty enriches life. Doesn’t it? It enhances our well-being. Ugliness and mediocrity does exactly the opposite. And if we go on building mediocre, ugly environments — and I believe we’re becoming numb to that stuff — if we go on doing that, it’s something like large-scale vandalism, which is completely unacceptable. ”