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The history, aesthetics, and design of bridges

Pipinato A. AP&P, Technical Director, Italy

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1 History of bridge structures

Bridge structures represent a challenge in the built environment: they are the crystal- lization of forces finalized to keep someone in an unreachable place. Bridges provide the most appropriate connection of what nature has divided: a river, a valley, or some- thing that is impossible to be reached. The first bridge was a natural gift to humanity:

probably a tree that fell across a small river or the observation of rock bridges. This suggested to the first prehistoric builders that it is possible to overpass obstacles. And from this simple structures, a relevant part of the entire structural engineering world- wide has been produced over the centuries. In this chapter, a synthesis of the history of bridge construction is presented, to be followed by deeper information in subsequent chapters.

1.1 Pre-roman era

The first bridge was a simply supported beam made of wood. This was probably developed in the Paleolithic age. In the Mesolithic period, an increasing amount of bridge structures were built. For example, consider the Sweet Track, 1800 m long, which was recently discovered at Somerset Levels in Great Britain and harked to the early stage of the Neolithic period (3806 B.C.), according to dendrocronological analysis ( Figure 1.1 ). In Egypt, such small examples have been found as the stone bridge at Gizah (2620 B.C.) ( Figure 1.2 ). Meanwhile, in Greece, the Kasarmi Bridge, at Argolide (1400 B.C.), was one of the first type of Miceneus bridges ( Figure 1.3 ). It is a common historical belief that Etruschi taught the Romans how to build arch brid- ges, even if they left no relevant bridges behind to document this. In fact, the Romans learned about this from defense and hydraulic buildings such as the Volterra arch (fourth century B.C.), which certainly was a masterpiece of the Etruschans that was later altered by the Romans ( Figure 1.4 ). Finally, some wooden structures from the Celtic period have been found: for instance, Figure 1.5 shows the Rodano Bridge in Geneve (58 B.C.). The presence of these bridges were documented in the first cen- tury B.C. by Cesare (50 B.C.) in the book De Bello Gallico , which listed a large number of wooden bridges in the Gallia territory.

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4 Innovative Bridge Design Handbook Figure 1.1 Graphic reconstruction of the 1800-meter-long Sweet Track (3806 B.C.).

Figure 1.1 Graphic reconstruction of the 1800-meter-long Sweet Track (3806 B.C.).

of the 1800-meter-long Sweet Track (3806 B.C.). Figure 1.2 Stone bridge, Gizah (2620 B.C.). Figure 1.3

Figure 1.2 Stone bridge, Gizah (2620 B.C.).

Sweet Track (3806 B.C.). Figure 1.2 Stone bridge, Gizah (2620 B.C.). Figure 1.3 Kasarmi Bridge, Argolide

Figure 1.3 Kasarmi Bridge, Argolide (1400 B.C.).

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The history, aesthetics, and design of bridges 5 Figure 1.4 Volterra Arch, Volterra (fourth century B.C.).

Figure 1.4 Volterra Arch, Volterra (fourth century B.C.).

5 Figure 1.4 Volterra Arch, Volterra (fourth century B.C.). Figure 1.5 Rodano Bridge, Geneve (58 B.C.):

Figure 1.5 Rodano Bridge, Geneve (58 B.C.): (A) plan view, (B) plan of the first pile, (C) wooden platform for the first pile, (D) section of C, (E) built pile section.

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1.2 Roman era

Although wooden bridges were common at first, stone bridges (especially arch brid- ges) increasingly dominated until the Middle Ages; as Palladio said: “Stone bridges were built for their longer life, and to glorify their builder” ( Palladio, 1570 ). One of the most incredible period of bridge construction was started during the Roman Empire, in which stone arch bridge building techniques were developed. Two fundamental ele- ments form the basis of this development: the first was geopolitical, as the military and political objective to grow faster and faster as an empire required a large amount of infrastructure; the second was technological, lying on the discovery and growing pop- ularity of the pozzolana , as this fact made a strong turning in these construction types. Two notable structures pertaining to this period have been reported (Figures 1.6 and 1.7 ): the Sant’Angelo Bridge (in the year 136), and the Milvio Bridge (100), both in Rome. One construction improvement made by the Romans was the solution of the foundation in soft soils, by the innovative use of cofferdam, in which concrete could be poured. A relevant surviving monument of this period is the Pont du Gard aqueduct near Nıˆ mes in southern France (first century B.C.), which measures 360m at its lon- gest point, was built as a three-level aqueduct standing more than 48m high ( Figure 1.8 ).

aqueduct standing more than 48m high ( Figure 1.8 ). Figure 1.6 Sant’Angelo Bridge, Rome (136

Figure 1.6 Sant’Angelo Bridge, Rome (136 B.C.).

( Figure 1.8 ). Figure 1.6 Sant’Angelo Bridge, Rome (136 B.C.). Figure 1.7 Milvio Bridge, Rome

Figure 1.7 Milvio Bridge, Rome (first century B.C.).

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The history, aesthetics, and design of bridges 7 Figure 1.8 Pont Du Gard aqueduct, Nimes (first

Figure 1.8 Pont Du Gard aqueduct, Nimes (first century B.C.).

1.3 Middle ages

The fall of the Roman Empire put a stop to the accelerated development of bridge construction for a long time. In the Middle ages, a particular type of bridge started to be built: the inhabited bridge. One of the most relevant and oldest of these was the Old London Bridge ( Figure 1.9 ), finished in 1209 in the reign of King John and initially built under the direction of a priest named Peter of Colechurch; the bridge was replaced at the end of the 18th century, having stood for six hundred years with shops and houses on it. But the larger number of these bridge types are Italian inhabited bridges, such as the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.

inhabited bridges, such as the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. Figure 1.9 Old London Bridge, London (1209).

Figure 1.9 Old London Bridge, London (1209).

1.4 The renaissance

A refined use of stone arch bridges came up during the Renaissance. The large variety

and quantity of bridges that were constructed in this period make it impossible to keep

a complete list of what was built. However, some masterpieces can be cited, which

represent innovations of the time. The first of these was the inhabited Ponte Rialto

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in Venice (Figure 1.10 ), an ornate stone arch made of two segments with a span of 27 m and a rise of 6 m. The present bridge was designed by Antonio da Ponte, the winner of a design competition, who overcame the problem of soft and wet soil, by drilling thousands of timber piles straight down under each of the two abutments, upon which the masonry was placed in such a way that the bed joints of the stones were perpendicular to the line of thrust of the arch (Rondelet, 1841). Other notable structures of this period include the Pont de la Concorde in Paris, designed by J. R. Perronet at the end of the 18th century; London’s Waterloo Bridge (Figure 1.11), by J. Rennie started in 1811; and finally, the New London Bridge (1831).

started in 1811; and finally, the New London Bridge (1831). Figure 1.10 Ponte Rialto, Venice (1588).

Figure 1.10 Ponte Rialto, Venice (1588).

the New London Bridge (1831). Figure 1.10 Ponte Rialto, Venice (1588). Figure 1.11 Waterloo Bridge, London

Figure 1.11 Waterloo Bridge, London (1811).

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1.5 The period of modernity from 1900 to present

The Industrial Revolution, which began in the late 18th century, completely changed the use of material not only in trad itional buildings, but also in bridges. Wood and masonry constructions were re placed by iron. The famous bridge in Coaldbrookdale, an English mining villa ge along the Severn River, was probably

the first to be completely erec ted with iron (opened in 1779; Figure 1.12 ): it is a single-span bridge made of cast-iron pieces, a ribbed arch with a nearly semicir- cular 30-m span. The great reputation of this bridge, earned for its shape and robustness (for instance, it was the only one that successfully resisted against a disastrous flood in 1795), spurred the mast er engineer Thomas Telford to design

a great number of arched metal bridges, including the surviving Craigellachie

Bridge (1814) over the River Spey in Scotland, a 45-m flat arch made of two curved arches connected by X-bracing and featuring two masonry towers at each side ( Figure 1.13 ). Another innovation f ostered by the use of i ron in construction was the opportunity to build lighter structures and such new structural components as cables. The first structural application in a bridge was probably the Menai Bridge (started in 1819, opened in 1826), another of Telford’s constructions ( Figure 1.14 ), spanning 305 m and with a central span of 177 m. This was the world’s longest bridge at the time. In 18 93, its timber deck was replaced with a steel one, and in 1940, steel chains repla ced the corroded wrought-iron ones, in 1999 the road deck has been strengthen, and in 2005 the bridge was repainted fully for the first time since 1940; the bridge is still in service today. Another innovation during the Industria l Revolution was the invention of the Portland cement, patented first in 1824, which, in conjunction with the recent iron

industrialization, boosted the rein forced concrete (r.c.) era. Franc¸ois Henne´ bique saw Joseph Monier’s (a French gardener) reinforced concrete tubs and tanks at the Paris Exposition of 1867 and began expe rimenting to apply this new material

to building construction. Some years later, in 1892, Henne´ bique patented a com-

plete building system using r.c. The first large-scale example of an r.c. bridge was the Ch^atellerault Bridge (1899), a three-arched structure with a 48-m central span. Subsequently, Emil M orsch designed the Isar Bridge at Gru¨ newald, Germany in 1904 (with a maximum span of 69 m); Euge` ne Freyssinet the Saint-Pierre- du-Vauvray Bridge over the Seine in northern France (built in 1922, with a max- imum span of 131 m); the same Freyssinet also the Plougastel Bridge ( Figure 1.15 ) over the Elorn Estuary near Brest, France (built in 1930 with a maximum span of 176 m); and finally, the Sand o Bridge in northern Sweden (built in 1943 with a maximum span of 260 m). Some of the fi rst problems that arose with these medium-size structures with vehicle l oadings included creep and fatigue. A wide amount of innovations started in this period. For instance, in 1901, Robert Maillart, a Swiss engineer, started using concrete for bridges and other structures, adopting non-conventional shapes. Throughout his life, he built a wide variety of structures still known for their slenderness, and aesthetic expression. Some examples include the Tavanasa bridge over the Vorderrhein at Tavanasa, Switzerland (built in 1905), with a span of 51 m; and the Valtschielbach Bridge in 1926, a deck-stiffened

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arch with a 40-m span. However, undoubtedly the best-known structure is the Salginatobel Bridge, a 90-m, three-hinged hollow-box arched span in Graubu¨ nden, Switzerland. Maillart probably was the first engineer to merge engineering with the most functional form of architecture, reaching a very high quality in unconventional constructions. Dealing with r.c. innovative solutions, industries who developed pre-stressing solutions lately, started paramount and experimental constructions: this is the case of the railway bridges near Kempten, Germany (1904), the longest span of which was 64.5 m. It was built by Dywidag Bau (now called Dyckerhoff & Widmann AG). It is also interesting to note that in 1927, the Alsleben Bridge in Saale was built with prestressed iron ties designed by Franz Dischinger, a predecessor of today’s prestressing technique. And only one year later, in 1928, Freyssinet patented the first

prestressing technology. Then, other bridges were completely realized in prestressed r.c.: e.g., the Luzancy Bridge (completed in 1946), with a span of 54 m ( Figure 1.16 ). Other notable bridges were the bridge over the Rhine at Koblenz, Germany, com- pleted in 1962 with thin piers and a central span of 202 m, designed by Ulrich Finsterwalder; and more recently, the Reichenau Bridge (1964) over the Rhine, a deck-stiffened arch with a span of 98 m designed by Christian Menn, a Swiss engi- neer who made great use of prestressing in bridge construction. More recently, Menn built the Ganter Bridge in 1980, a curved bridge crossing a deep valley in the canton of Valais, a cable-stayed structure with a prestressed girder, with the highest column rising 148 m and a central span of 171 m.

A wide variety of innovations arising in the late 20th century, together with the use

of metal and reinforced concrete, consisted of pursuing increasing span length. This

led to the first suspension bridges: the first such structure was the Brooklyn Bridge ( Figure 1.17 ), by John Roebling and, in the final phase, by his son, Washington Roeb- ling, which opened in 1883. This was the first suspension bridge with steel wires, with a total span of 1596 m, and a central span of 486 m. Subsequently, in New York, two other bridges were built to accommodate the increasing traffic, the Williamsburg and the Manhattan bridges. The first, spanning 2227 m, was the longest in the world in 1903, after its completion; the second, spanning 1762 m, was completed in 1910. The Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges were the first two such structures in which the deflection theory were adopted while making the calculations, considering the relationship between deck and cable deflection and the required stiffness for increasing spans. Then, when Ralph Modjeski erected the Philadelphia-Camden Bridge in 1926 (today known as the Benjamin Franklin Bridge), reaching 2273 m that became the longest span in the world. And that was soon exceeded by the Ambassador Bridge (1929) in Detroit and the George Washington Bridge (1931) in New York.

It is an author’s opinion that this latter bridge contained the most astonishing inno-

vations, making it a masterpiece of engineering and architecture. Designed by Othmar Amman, the George Washington Bridge was long enough (1450 m) to shatter the pre- vious record for bridge central span, reaching the 1067 m. At the same time, it was not built using the deflection theory; rather, it adopted the stabilization of the deck by its own weight. In addition, the girder depth ratio was innovative for that time, at nearly 1:350. Other similar structures followed, such as the Golden Gate (Figure 1.18 ),

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spanning 2737 (central span 1280 m) m and built in 1937; and the Bronx-Whitestone, spanning 1150 m (central span 701 m) and opened in 1939. The designers of these and other bridges learned a powerful lesson from the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which was destroyed by only a moderate wind in 1940, principally because its deck lacked torsional stiffness. As a result, most of the new bridges were reinforced to prevent another such disaster, adding new bracing systems or inclined suspenders to form a network of cables.

systems or inclined suspenders to form a network of cables. Figure 1.12 Coaldbrookdale Bridge, Coaldbrookdale (1779).

Figure 1.12 Coaldbrookdale Bridge, Coaldbrookdale (1779).

of cables. Figure 1.12 Coaldbrookdale Bridge, Coaldbrookdale (1779). Figure 1.13 Craigellachie Bridge, Scotland (1814).

Figure 1.13 Craigellachie Bridge, Scotland (1814).

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12 Innovative Bridge Design Handbook Figure 1.14 Menai Bridge, Wales (1816). Figure 1.15 Plougastel Bridge, Brest

Figure 1.14 Menai Bridge, Wales (1816).

Design Handbook Figure 1.14 Menai Bridge, Wales (1816). Figure 1.15 Plougastel Bridge, Brest (1930). Figure 1.16

Figure 1.15 Plougastel Bridge, Brest (1930).

Menai Bridge, Wales (1816). Figure 1.15 Plougastel Bridge, Brest (1930). Figure 1.16 Luzancy Bridge, Luzancy (1946).

Figure 1.16 Luzancy Bridge, Luzancy (1946).

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The history, aesthetics, and design of bridges 13 Figure 1.17 Brooklyn Bridge, New York (1883). Figure

Figure 1.17 Brooklyn Bridge, New York (1883).

bridges 13 Figure 1.17 Brooklyn Bridge, New York (1883). Figure 1.18 Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Figure 1.18 Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco (1937).

1.6 Recent masterpieces

In contemporary times, a large number of bridges have been built. It is not easy to choose the most innovative recent structures around the world, however the presence of these elements helps in the choice: new materials (lighter, more resistant, easier to be reused); new construction methods, finalized to increase the productivity; new structural shapes (probably the most fascinating and most difficult task of a bridge engineer), and finally, elegance, which is a kind of synthesis of the aforementioned characteristics. For each of these categories, a project has been cited as an example:

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For the new materials category, the Ulsan Grand Harbor Bridge ( Figure 1.19 ) for its inno- vative use of materials, such as the super high-strength steel cables (1960 MPa)

For the construction methods category, the Providence River Bridge ( Figure 1.20), built in a yard and then lifted on site

For the innovative structural shape category, the Sunnibergbru¨ cke ( Figure 1.21), combin- ing the cable stayed scheme with a curved plan, and featuring astonishing bifurcated columns

For the elegant category, the Erasmus Bridge (Figure 1.22), a masterpiece of construction reflecting with a very simple shape the industrial character of Rotterdam.

a very simple shape the industrial character of Rotterdam. Figure 1.19 Grand Harbor bridge, Ulsan (2015).

Figure 1.19 Grand Harbor bridge, Ulsan (2015).

of Rotterdam. Figure 1.19 Grand Harbor bridge, Ulsan (2015). Figure 1.20 Providence River Bridge, Providence (2008).

Figure 1.20 Providence River Bridge, Providence (2008).

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The history, aesthetics, and design of bridges 15 Figure 1.21 Sunnibergbru¨ cke, Klosters (1998). Figure 1.22

Figure 1.21

Sunnibergbru¨ cke, Klosters (1998).

15 Figure 1.21 Sunnibergbru¨ cke, Klosters (1998). Figure 1.22 Erasmus Bridge, Rotterdam (2003). 2 Bridge

Figure 1.22 Erasmus Bridge, Rotterdam (2003).

2 Bridge design and aesthetic

2.1 Bridge design

The bridge design phase is probably the most fascinating and most difficult task for an experienced senior engineer, if this is an original design and not an industrial/ repetitive work. The definition of the bridge design process, the various steps required, and the bureaucratic procedures involved are unnecessary to explain in this context. Instead, it should be stated that the bridge is a complex structure that intro- duces into the surrounding landscape relevant variations, dealing with a number of specialist fields: for example, hydraulic, geotechnical, landscaping, structural, archi- tectural, economic, and socio-political. For this reason, before starting the design of a bridge, a concept should be developed, with the realization of a scaled model, as a

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simulation of the three-dimensional (3D) overview of the construction and of all the considered alternatives. From this initial concept, some parametric considerations need to be performed to estimate the costs. This preliminary analysis is the basis for an open discussion with the client, the managing agencies, and any relevant local government agency on the most suitable solution. Only when the costs and the con- cept will be shared can the design stage start: the successive steps of the preliminary plan, finally culminating in a construction project that deals with the actual erection of the bridge. For large-scale projects, the preliminary stage includes economic and financial studies as well. It should be known that the large number of variables included in the design stage are mostly not fixed, as they depend on the precise place and time of the realization: e.g., there is not the best finite element method (FEM); rather, the FEM software most suitable for the specific bridge design must be chosen, and the same applies to codes and standards, the amount of human resources, and the hardware instrumentation required. The best project is a perfect mix of these various components. Surely, a good project must include an architectural consciousness, the structural engineering knowledge, the professional experience, and a strong infor- matic infrastructure.

2.2 Bridge aesthetics

There is no one rule to conceive the most perfect or most aesthetically pleasing bridge. However, awful bridges can be found anywhere. A good and well-known definition of the term aesthetic could be “pleasant architecture”: consequently, it could be helpful to give the basic components of architecture. These, according to Vitruvio (27 B.C.), are:

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Firmitas: This is a key element for infrastructure, and is surely the most relevant for bridge structures; it is the ability of a bridge to preserve its physical integrity, surviving as an inte- gral object, at least for its service life.

Utilitas: The practical function of a structure is a common rule; however, it is often not applied; the simple requirement that set the spaces and the components of a bridge structure includes the usefulness for the specific purpose for which the bridge was intended for.

Venustas: The sensibilities of those who see, or use the bridge structure may arise from one or more factors, including the symbolic meaning; the chosen shape and forms; the materials, textures, and colors; and the elegance to solve practical and programmatic problems. This is obviously a subjective factor that could cause delight in the observers, or not.

Research and innovation in bridge design

Research and development (R&D) are expected in the coming years in this particular and fascinating bridge engineering field. This activities are expected to be carried out by industries, universities, and specialized firms: the R&D field in this sector is expected to grow faster and faster, expanding into other fields of construction in the future. The most prominent problems to be faced are the following:

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Sustainable bridges: As generally could be said about the construction sector, a reduction in the use of materials is expected in bridge construction, together with the possibility of con- ceiving new construction modes and new bridge types that can reduce the need for raw mate- rials, and at the same time, the construction, operation, maintenance and decommissioning energy and cost consumption.

Intelligent bridges: Bridges will be more like machines in the future, rather than a fixed and completely crystallized construction, and eventually, intelligent systems able to control in real time the bridge status (such as material decay, unexpected stress/strain levels, and exter- nal dangers) will be developed at a reasonable commercial cost, and integrated during the construction process in all new bridges at both large and small scales.

Intelligent bridge-net : Managing authorities are nowadays concerned about managing and limiting the maintenance costs of old infrastructure, where bridges are reaching 100 years of age. There is no single answer, as different solutions can apply depending on the situation:

however, in the future, ideally all bridges will be monitored as a net of constructions, where every maintenance cost could be planned and where a maintenance program could be easily performed and updated.

Life-long solutions: A wide amount of research should be done in the specific sector of mate- rials, as they can easily contribute to build life-longer and more sustainable bridges.

References

Cesare, G., 50 B.C. De Bello Gallico. Original Latin Version. Mursia Editorial Group, Milan, Italy. Palladio, A., 1570. I quattro libri dell’architettura. Translation of the original, 1945, 4 vols. Ulrico Hoepli Editore, Milan, Italy. Rondelet, A., 1841. Saggio storico sul ponte di Rialto in Venezia. Negretti Edition, 1841, Man- tova, Italy. Vitruvio, P.M., 27 B.C. De Architectura. Translation of the original, 1997, 2 vols. Einaudi, Milan, Italy.