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Petroski on Engineering: Everyone Loves Good Design

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Beth Stackpole
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Awed by bridge design
Beth Stackpole   9/10/2012 6:33:42 AM
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Bridges are indeed a great example of great engineering combined with great design. I live in the Boston area and was witness to the whole development effort around the Zakim Bridge, which indeed permanantly altered the Boston skyline. It's always amazed me how engineers are not only able to come up with these unique architectural designs, but more critically, buy off the engineering feat to actually bring them to life.

Jennifer Campbell
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Re: Awed by bridge design
Jennifer Campbell   9/10/2012 11:00:07 AM
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I have been fascinated/terrified by bridges since I was young. My fascination started in high school when we were tasked in a physics class to build a bridge out of dry spaghetti and glue. The test was to see how many bricks our teacher could hang from the bridge before it cracked. I can't remember how many bricks my bridge held, but I do remember drawing designs and working with my dad to test out different ideas.

My love for bridges was indeed renewed the first time I visited San Francisco. Walking along the Golden Gate Bridge was exhilarating.

Of course, there are the awful stories about bridges failing -- Minnesota bridge collapse, the Boston (where I'm from) nightmare called the Big Dig. For this reason, I also hold my breath when driving across these spans.

naperlou
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myraid of bridge types
naperlou   9/10/2012 12:04:54 PM
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I would certianly agree that many bridges are interesting and beautiful.  I am often more impressed by design of practical things than of objects that are formally called art.  If you ever get a chance to look at an integrated circuit under an electron microsocpe you find something incredibly beautiful in its own way. 

As for bridges, I had an opportunity to walk inside of post tensioned cast-in-place concrete box girder structure just before it was completed.  The spans started from both sides of the river and met in the middle.  Getting that right was quite a feat.  We were about 200 feet above the river with this ten foot gap in front of us.  I was a little scary, but wonderful.  Indisde the span were the cables and other structure of the bridge.  While few would ever see it, it was intersting in its own way.  I'm glad I got a chance to see it.

NadineJ
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inspiring future engineers
NadineJ   9/10/2012 3:00:01 PM
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I'm a little spoiled living in San Francisco. I know the Gold Gate Bridge very well. Watching the construction of the new Bay Bridge is exciting. Some of the engineering feats (eg, buildong a new curved ramp leading the the tunnel, cutting out the old part of the bridge and replacing it with the new piece) have been awesome to watch.

One of my favourite bridges is in Washington state over Deception Pass.  It's hard to drive across without wanting to stop.  Luckily, there are little parking lots on both ends.

Mydesign
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Building and Bridge Designs
Mydesign   9/10/2012 11:44:24 PM
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Henry, most of the ancient bridges, buildings and monuments are look very nicely. We have to really appreciate the designs and the brain behind such projects. Lotus building in Australia, Statue of liberty in US, trade center at burgee Dubai, twin tower at Singapore etc are some of the examples for such brilliant works.

Mydesign
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Re: Awed by bridge design
Mydesign   9/10/2012 11:55:28 PM
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Beth, I think among bridges, construction of hanging bridges are harder and require complex structural designs. The entire structure has to be balanced over the hanging rope and the structural engineers has to possess a good set of design skills for weight balancing.

notarboca
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Re: Building and Bridge Designs
notarboca   9/11/2012 12:30:24 AM
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I have always appreciated the design and appearance of the ancient Roman bridges and aqueducts. The Sunshine Skyway in Tampa is one of my favorite cable-stayed bridges.

kenish
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Re: Awed by bridge design
kenish   9/11/2012 11:42:08 PM
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On vacation in Canada last week I came across the construction site for the new Port Mann bridge in the eastern suburbs of Vancouver.  It's a cable-stayed bridge that will replace the old steel arch bridge.  The contrast between the two bridges is striking...they are both beautiful and utilize the technology, materials, construction techniques, and aesthetic of their respective eras.

Here's a progressive set of photos that show how the bridge is being built...the last page really contrasts the two designs.  http://urbantoronto.ca/forum/showthread.php/8411-New-Port-Mann-Bridge-(Surrey-Coquitlam-BC)

 Good to see some countries are using their money to upgrade infrastructure instead of bailing out CEOs and union bosses.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Awed by bridge design
Beth Stackpole   9/12/2012 7:09:40 AM
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While I know investing in infrastructure has become some what of a political hot button, there is investment in that area at least where I live, close to the Altantic and where a major river criss-crosses at numerous points. We've had a number of bridges close for long periods of time (the inconvenience is another story) to be renovated and while it's not as exciting and sexy as the Golden Gate or some of the new bridge projects referenced, it is worthwhile engineering. Even some of these smaller projects are pushing innovation. Check out this story Ann did on a bridge made with recycled plastics.

 

 

Mydesign
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Re: Building and Bridge Designs
Mydesign   9/13/2012 12:09:34 AM
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Notarboca, what type of bridges you like most. The ancient type with brilliant art work of structural engineers or the modern bridges made of steel and concrete mix. The ancient bridges are of excellent master piece works of great engineers. They built it in a very nice way, without the help of structural engineering tools and software for stability analyzes.

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