21 November 2014

"Bridges in Slovakia" by Peter Paulík

Bridges in Slovakia (Jaga, 272pp, 2014, also available in Slovak) [amazon.co.uk] is a lavish coffee table gazetteer, a real labour of love, and a book I would unreservedly recommend to Pontists everywhere.

Peter Paulík is a Slovak engineer who spent roughly two years touring his country, photographing, researching and writing this book. The result is a very well-produced effort, well designed and with large, full-colour photographs and diagrams on almost every page. You can get a good idea of the content without buying the book, as Peter has made the whole book available entirely free of charge in PDF format.

Amazon are currently listing this book, but I think it's best to buy directly from Peter online, the cost is only €36 including postage (in Europe), which is astonishingly cheap for such an large and well-illustrated volume.

The book opens with a series of prefaces and introductions, of which Paulík's short account of his bridge-hunting expeditions is the most interesting - he has braved real difficulties to locate and photograph some of the structures. There's also a good introductory guide to types of bridges, with very clear diagrams, some statistics on the number and type of bridges in Slovakia, a timeline and list of particularly significant structures.

The main section of the book is the gazetteer, arranged alphabetically by location. This covers all types of structures, from all periods of construction. Each bridge has a photograph or historic illustration, map coordinates, and explanatory text. Some structures are accompanied by further photographs and extracts from technical drawings.

Many of the bridges are relatively ordinary, but there are many which are beautiful, unusual and interesting. Major structures are given more attention and space. The photographs are generally of a
very high quality.

For anyone with a particular interest in Slovakia's architecture or infrastructure, this is an essential book. For other bridge enthusiasts, it is still a very enjoyable and informative tome. I think most of the bridges are little known outside their own nation, but many deserve wider attention. There are some gorgeous masonry arch structures; oddities such as a wooden "ecoduct", a bridge made from an old railway carriage, and an airport runway lighting bridge; and hosts of intriguing bridges in modern materials. As well as the masonry spans, I particularly like a number of small suspension bridges and pipeline structures.

Hopefully the book will bring the rich heritage of bridge design and construction in Slovakia to much wider attention.

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