The Art of Structural Design: A Swiss Legacy

author: David P. Billington, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University
published: May 3, 2013,   recorded: September 2004,   views: 249
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Description

Bridges serve a utilitarian purpose, but they should also please the eye. David P. Billington celebrates an influential group of Swiss structural engineers who forged a tradition of bridge-building in the 20th century that united form and function with unprecedented grace. His lecture describes the offerings of an exhibit at the MIT Museum that showcases the works of Robert Maillart (1872-1940), Othmar Ammann (1879-1965), Heinz Isler (b. 1926), and Christian Menn (b. 1927). These architects, inspired by masterful teachers of the Zurich Federal Institute of Technology, first honed their exacting designs in the rugged mountains of Switzerland, and then branched out to the rest of the world. Billington describes Maillart’s iconic, 1930 Salginatobel Bridge, high in the Alps, which improves on old Roman bridge designs using a 3-hinged arch and reinforced concrete. He toasts Ammann’s Verrazzano Narrows and George Washington Bridges as well as Menn’s very recent Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge in Boston, the widest cable-stayed bridge in the world. Billington believes these are structures that will “outlast all our lives, enrich the environment and not desecrate it.”

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