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Petroski on Engineering: Everyone Loves Good Design

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DanSchwartz
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Iron
But beautiful design can happen by accident, too
DanSchwartz   9/25/2012 1:03:40 PM
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One of the most stunning bridges in the world is the George Washington Bridge, spanning the Hudson between Fort Lee NJ and the upper section of Manhattan, with it's unique exposed tower superstructure, peeking over the trees as you drive south at the end of the Palisades Parkway, or welcoming you home with it's spectacular lighting as an old friend after a long day driving on I-80.

But, what is not well known is that the distinctive design of the GWB was, in fact, an accident: While the massive double-decked bridge was being built, they ran out of money for the exterior stone cladding. So, the question arose, "can we do without it?" and the structural Engineers went back to work, recalculating the loads, and the answer was a resounding YES!

And that is how one of America's most iconic bridges came to be, as fate would have it~

DanSchwartz
User Rank
Iron
But beautiful design can happen by accident
DanSchwartz   9/25/2012 1:02:27 PM
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One of the most stunning bridges in the world is the George Washington Bridge, spanning the Hudson between Fort Lee NJ and the upper section of Manhattan, with it's unique exposed tower superstructure, peeking over the trees as you drive south at the end of the Palisades Parkway, or welcoming you home with it's spectacular lighting as an old friend after a long day driving on I-80.

But, what is not well known is that the distinctive design of the GWB was, in fact, an accident: While the massive double-decked bridge was being built, they ran out of money for the exterior stone cladding. So, the question arose, "can we do without it?" and the structural Engineers went back to work, recalculating the loads, and the answer was a resounding YES!

And that is how one of America's most iconic bridges came to be, as fate would have it~

Ann R. Thryft
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Blogger
Re: Building and Bridge Designs
Ann R. Thryft   9/21/2012 12:29:05 PM
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Mydesign, thanks for that info. I'm glad to know that India has such a strong program of historical monument preservation, since there are so many periods of its history with beautiful architecture. I learned about those buildings, as well as the amazing civic planning of those ancient cities, many years ago and was impressed by the intelligence and beauty of the designs and of the engineering in such a distant past.

Mydesign
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Platinum
Re: Building and Bridge Designs
Mydesign   9/21/2012 12:42:12 AM
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Ann, you are right. Whatever the things possible are preserved and keeping as monuments by the archeological department. Apart from Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, all the buildings with more than 100 years old are preserving by government and archeological departments, irrespective of it's a private or public building.

warren@fourward.com
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Platinum
Beautiful Designs
warren@fourward.com   9/20/2012 4:30:45 PM
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I learned early on that looks are important!  Packaging can make the difference between success and failure.  Look at the auto industry.  Ugly only sells if it's REALLY ugly, otherwise, it's an Edsel.

I looked at the disassembly of the iPad and marvelled at how it was so carefully and artistically put together.  It is a work of art and Apple has overflowed its bank accounts.

I am not artistic, but I know how to hire the artistic types and work with them to put things together right.  It is worth the money!

Ann R. Thryft
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Blogger
Re: Building and Bridge Designs
Ann R. Thryft   9/18/2012 12:12:02 PM
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Mydesign, if I remember correctly, you're in India, right? That country has some incredibly well-built, very ancient public structures and multi-story houses in Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa I've read about (and seen reconstructions of), from the Indus Valley civilization of a few thousand years ago. I don't know if they are still standing, fully or partially, but from the archaeological reconstructions I've seen they were both beautiful and well-engineered.

Mydesign
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Platinum
Re: Building and Bridge Designs
Mydesign   9/17/2012 11:35:51 PM
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Ann, our ancient civil engineers and draftsman had done excellent works in designing and building bridges and roads without any analytical and design software/tools. They had used their brain and skills to complete the task, without depending any man made tools. In my country we had a more than a dozen of bridges built by the great British engineers in 19th century. Still most of them are in good condition and public is widely using it and some other are protecting as heritage monuments.

Ann R. Thryft
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Blogger
Re: Building and Bridge Designs
Ann R. Thryft   9/17/2012 12:14:56 PM
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Bob, those aqueducts that have lasted 2000-plus years are pretty amazing, aren't they? I've seen lots of good illustrations that show how they work, but none about the exact building methods used. Does anyone else know any?

Scott Orlosky
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Platinum
Re: Good design :Bridges
Scott Orlosky   9/16/2012 2:46:34 PM
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I have add in my two cent to this architectural love-fest on bridges.  There is something magical about the way they "work" without actually "doing" anything.  Sort of like the human equivalent of a spider's web - constantly balancing forces through a series of aesthetic arcs and supports.  All in plain view. Thanks for highlighting these marvels of engineering.

bobjengr
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Platinum
Re: Building and Bridge Designs
bobjengr   9/15/2012 2:55:56 PM
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  Ann, I agree completely.  In 2009 my wife and I traveled to Madrid to celebrate our 40th anniversary.    While there, we took a side trip to visit Toledo, an ancient city with many extrodanary structures, one being an aqueduct running close to three miles in length.  The workmanship was stunning and how the engineers accomplished the uniform downward slope with the tools they had at their disposal amazes me.  The stones were all laid by hand, each one carefully placed. Thousands upon thousands of carefully cut and placed stones.    I would love to climb into Mr. Peabody's way-back machine just to see how some of these ancient monuments were constructed.  It would certainly be a real treat.

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