The purpose of a bridge is to cross a river or a valley, connect two islands, close a gap. Its function is to get you there, and its form can take your breath away.
You can think of a bridge as an engineered body of land suspended in mid air with limbs of steel or concrete. Arch bridges of brick and stone rise high above rushing water. Men of skill and pride have designed these structures, but have not always calculated the effects of a strong wind and other geological forces. The collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1940 was one cautionary calamity.
But when bridges aren’t falling down, they are changing landscapes, with the awesome style of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Golden Gate or Florence’s Bridge of Gold built for merchants more than travelers.
And then there is the disputed Peace Bridge, connecting Buffalo to Fort Erie, Ontario.
What happens when a 70 year old bridge needs a complete remodeling? Tearing down a bridge often feels like tearing apart a common thread of a community to its denizens. So can it transcend a city’s history as well as transport its people?
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)
SUNY Buffalo Professor of American Culture Bruce Jackson, bridge designer Eugene Figg, and Duke University Professor of History and Civil Engineering Henry Petroski