22 June 2008

Welcome to the Happy Pontist

I used to think that the best word for a bridge-lover would be a gephyrophile (from the Greek gephyra = bridge) but about the only reference I can find on Google to the word is to a person who's aroused by crossing bridges. I find bridges quite exciting, but arousing would probably be going too far.

Pontist (this time from Latin, "bridge builder") isn't the most common of terms either, but, heh, perhaps it's time to popularise it. I know there are a lot of pontists out there, even if they don't know what to call themselves.

I've started this blog as a home for occasional thoughts on everything related to bridges. Quite how often I'll update it will remain to be seen. My interest in bridges is both personal and professional - my job as a bridge engineer came about largely by accident (I graduated as a civil engineer and bridge work just happened to be the thing that needed doing in the office I started in), but after eighteen years doing it bridges have grown on me, infected my mind, become a source of pleasure as well as salary. As with many subjects, the more you know about them, the more interesting they become.

My main interest is in design of new bridges, particularly those with a more architectural slant, but I think this blog will cover anything relevant, with a few unlikely digressions as well. I have in mind reviews of bridge-related books, comments on bridge design competitions, hopefully even reviews of bridges themselves (I think the art of structural engineering criticism is much neglected, possibly something to return to at some point ...) Wait and see.


Ranger Bob said...

Very interesting! I'll bookmark your blog and make sure to come back to it.

I'm interested to read your remark, "My main interest is in design of new bridges, particularly those with a more architectural slant..."

Personally, I favor the classic, form-follows-function designs, and admit to deep skepticism regarding the fanciful Calatrava constructions that attract so much press these days. Perhaps you may be able to expand my admittedly conservative horizons in this respect; I look forward to finding out!

The Happy Pontist said...

Calatrava is more of a sculptor than a bridge designer, and his designs are widely disliked by many bridge engineers. There's a paper by David Billington on Calatrava's Sundial Bridge in California which is typical - he's almost disgusted that the design is so irrational, and hence unnecessarily expensive. Most engineers are like Billington - they see form-follows-function as almost a moral imperative.

Personally, I have a more ambiguous view. Although many of his designs are inefficient and irrational, what I do like about Calatrava is that he has a very clear style, which many imitate but few can match. And I think good engineers should have style, but too rarely do.

As far as this blog is concerned, I'll cover both views - I'm off to Switzerland later in the year to visit bridges by Menn, Maillart and Conzett, for example, and hope to write a report on those.