Sunday, April 29, 2007

Take it to the bridge

Julia Buckley posts in her usual winsome way about the Second Severn Crossing. This magnificent structure links South Wales to England, aiming straight along the M4 to London.

It is but a hop and a skip and a jump from Bristol, which therefore benefits from the proximity of two awe-inspiring bridges.

So what is it about bridges, exactly? When people talk of man-made wonders, bridges always seem to dominate. Why do we love them so?

Some possible reasons:

1) They tend to stand stark and alone, in plenty of space for panoramic viewing.
2) They are generally of a superhuman scale
3) Their purpose is pure and obvious – other buildings tend to be full of stuff, or people, or offices, and to be surrounded by similar neighbours
4) They are a clear demonstration of man’s ability to overcome natural obstacles and define his own environment.


Anonymous said...

They are a clear demonstration of man’s ability to overcome natural obstacles and define his own environment.

For cryin' out loud, man, will you keep it down. Gaia might hear you.

Anonymous said...


Mike Beversluis said...

Quite right: they are one of the nicer accouterments of developed countries.

There is also something of a lasting quality to them - they say, here's something we did that will be handy for people 100 years from now.

Also, I like sky-scrapers too, but they're high-heels for cities.

Susan's Husband said...

I lived in Pittsburgh for a few years and it claimed to have the most bridges of any city in the USA, possibly the world (with claims as high as 2000). Does make it the most civilized?

Duck said...

The standoff effect is very important. Some structures add beauty to the landscape when seen from a distance. I think of it as the "horizon effect". Bridge spans, church steeples, etc. You find it a lot in Renaissance painting. You see details carefully added to the background of buildings, stuctures or ruins. I always enjoyed the horizon effect, especially on car trips. It added an air of mystery to the landscape.

Anonymous said...

Duck, the standclose effect can be neat too, as in Italian Renaissance piazzas.

Seriously, I think you guys are over-intellectualizing. Is it not all about art? They are big and beautiful, like palaces, ships and dams. Mike thinks skyscrapers are too, but you know Mike.

monix said...

The River Taw, which runs through Barnstaple, will soon be a two bridge river, too. We have the Old Bridge, built in the 15th century, and soon we'll have the 21st century Downstream Bridge. One is a feat of modern engineering and the other is a thing of beauty.

Mike Beversluis said...

Hey, it's just that I like a dame in high-heels. However, the last time I climbed up a sky-scraper to talk to one, all these planes started shooting at me! Maybe I should have tried wooing her with sensuous accordion playing.

Meanwhile, trolls live under bridges where they never over-intellectualize anything.

Harry Eagar said...

The Bridges of Madison County, which are none of those things, are loved as much as the big bridges. They were so even before the hideous novel.

Last week Tricia and I took a boat tour around Manhattan. I defy anyone to pass under the Brooklyn Bridge and then, two minutes later, the Manhattan Bridge, and say that all big bridges have some noble and winsome aspect. The Manhattan Bridge is an ugly thing, god wot, though it is very big.

Oroborous said...

For fans of industrial-chic, such as myself, the Manhattan Bridge has charms aplenty in its sheer mass, vast quantities of steel, and the laciness of the structure's beams.

Julia Buckley said...

Aw, winsome, how very kind!

Yeah, I think all of the things on your list come together to make a bridge like SS so exhilarating to cross.

Nice pic.