The Golden Gate Bridge: A Designing Marvel

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The Golden Gate Bridge is a wonderful example of how artistic elements blend into engineering fundamentals to create a masterpiece of design. The process takes enormous effort, as a study of the history of the bridge's construction will show. The end result is a monument that is recognized the world over as a benchmark study in designing and bridge engineering.

The word design brings to mind art and ornate stone facades, furniture, and paintings. The truth, of course, is that design is inherent to any structure, object, or article, and even though ''design'' is largely synonymous with art, elements of design incorporate the precision of scientific principles. In that context, then, the clean lines of a minimalist writing table reflect well-balanced joints, while the ornamentation of Baroque art often hides aspects of engineering that add stability and utilitarian values.

Design is less readily associated with huge, colossal constructions such as bridges. All the same, this is probably one of the areas where one can most easily witness the magical fusion of design and engineering. The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, for example, is recognizable as much for its graceful, long lines as for the marvels of engineering that hold it up. According to Wikipedia, the bridge is ''widely considered one of the most beautiful examples of bridge engineering, both as a structural design challenge and for its aesthetic appeal.''



A suspension bridge with two towers supporting two cables, the Golden Gate Bridge is nearly 1.7 miles long, including the approaches, and 90 feet in width. The main suspension span of the bridge, or the distance between towers, is 4,200 feet. The bridge, a landmark that enjoys worldwide recognition, took more than four years to complete (it was finished in 1937) and was constructed at a cost of $35 million, according to the website INeTours.com (available at http://www.inetours.com/Pages/SFNbrhds/Golden_Gate_Bridge.html). The bridge is painted in a kind of orange color known as international orange. The color was selected because it allowed for harmony between the structure and its surroundings while increasing visibility in case of fog.

A Wikipedia entry on the bridge throws some light on the importance of design, the main concern of this article. While Joseph Strauss was responsible for the overall design and construction of the project, Irving Morrow, a residential architect, designed its towers, railings, and lighting. Ironically, it is said that Joseph Strauss’s first design idea for the bridge was rejected on the basis of aesthetic appeal. Strauss had already built around 400 bridges by the time he took over the Golden Gate project. However, he was not familiar with suspension bridges. The bridge that exists today was conceived by well-known bridge designer Leon Moisseiff. However, it only came into being after the project’s senior engineer, Charles Alton Ellis, collaborated with Moisseiff across a distance of several hundred miles.

Ellis worked on Moisseiff’s design for a suspension bridge and managed the theoretical aspects of the construction of the bridge. The two communicated by means of telegrams, making mathematical calculations to compute the impact of wind on the bridge and other vital engineering concerns. It is worth mentioning here that Ellis, who had no formal training or degree in engineering, went on to author a standard textbook on structural design. Ellis was not recognized for his efforts during his lifetime, and his contributions were acknowledged only after his death in the year 1949 (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/goldengate/peopleevents/p_ellis.html).

Conclusion

The Golden Gate Bridge is a much-loved San Francisco monument. Other bridges have also been designed on the same lines, though none have come close to the elegance and sheer longevity of the Golden Gate Bridge.
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