CONTEXT

October 24, 2010

A bridge to somewhere

Filed under: Uncategorized — jchatoff @ 12:13 am
Tags: , , ,

Today is the 79th anniversary of the dedication of the George Washington Bridge connecting New York and New Jersey.  The day after the dedication, it was opened to traffic.

Photo by Toshinori Tanaka

Cass Gilbert was the architect and Othmar Ammann, whose family emigrated to the US from Switzerland, was the engineer.  Ammann spent the early part of his career studying the collapse of the Quebec Bridge in 1907.  His report on the collapse impressed the Port Authority and Robert Moses gave him a job.  He wound up building six of the eleven bridges that tether New York to the rest of the country.

Several things are notable about the GW.  First, without even knowing Ammann’s name, we all thought pretty highly of him when we learned – at the time the lower level was proposed – that the bridge had been designed from the beginning to carry the additional level.

Othmar Ammann

The addition increased traffic capacity by 75 percent and the GW is still the only suspension bridge in the world with 14 traffic lanes.

Ammann really knew his stuff.  He brought the project in ahead of schedule by six months and under budget.  Let’s think about that.  Ahead of schedule and under budget. Are you listening, Boston?

Granted, the suspension towers were supposed to  be clad in concrete, a plan that was shelved, doubtless adding to speed while lowering the price.  But the result is much more aesthetically pleasing.  Here’s Le Corbusier’s paean to its design:

“The George Washington Bridge over the Hudson is the most beautiful bridge in the world. Made of cables and steel beams, it gleams in the sky like a reversed arch. It is blessed. It is the only seat of grace in the disordered city. It is painted an aluminum color and, between water and sky, you see nothing but the bent cord supported by two steel towers. When your car moves up the ramp the two towers rise so high that it brings you happiness; their structure is so pure, so resolute, so regular that here, finally, steel architecture seems to laugh…’

Thanks, Othmar.  All together now:  George Waa-shing-ton Bridge, Geo-orge Washington Washington Bridge…

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3 Comments »

  1. Oh do I love a good bridge building story, thank you very nicccce

    Comment by avery — October 25, 2010 @ 8:01 am | Reply

  2. Great pics too!

    Comment by avery — October 25, 2010 @ 8:02 am | Reply

  3. seriously boston…hahaha 😉

    Comment by Nina — October 25, 2010 @ 1:50 pm | Reply


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