Rather than simply offer my own (largely ignorant) views, I've agreed it may be better to open the topic up to you, the readers of this blog. You can respond either through the blog comments, or if you prefer, by email directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some of the questions raised include:
- What are some known and/or interesting U.S. bridge design competitions (ideally ones that have been built or are being built) - are there any examples?
- Is information on the design and the competition process available?
- An understanding/synopsis of the design competition process (both in the U.S. and abroad)
- How do the competitions work? Time frame, participants, judges/jury, budget, financing, awards, etc. Are these competitions widely publicized?
- A feeling for the the design competition culture (both in the U.S. and abroad) as well as opinions of the process - are competitions helpful for the field? Do they incite conversations and innovation?
For my part, one thing I note about US bridge design culture relative to that in Europe is the much greater obsession with community participation, often to the detriment of what many engineers would consider good design (e.g. the adding of irrelevant ornamentation, even to the extent of adding fake arches, so as pacify the voters). I've never understood this inability of designers and bridge promoters to make their own decisions, but it does seem to be at odds with the culture of design contests, which is generally heavily authorial - in search of a designer with a strong vision.