02 June 2015

10 essential bridges books

I'm aware I've not been posting much recently, and this is as much because of having little to post about as having little time to do it. So in an attempt to rectify things, I'm going to put together a series of posts on essential bridges books, tomes which no serious bridge designer or enthusiast should be without.

I'm not going to repeat any books I've already reviewed on this blog. So, to get things started, here are the top 10 books I've previously featured, in no particular order. In my next post, I'll move on to 10 more books which I haven't previously reviewed.

Chinese Bridges (Knapp and Ong)
"It's a lovely coffee-table tome, amply illustrated with Ong's excellent photographs of bridges both famous and unknown. I don't think there's a page without a good photo on it. It also draws extensively on historic Chinese prints and paintings, and is clearly a labour of love.

"Easily the highlight of the bridges included is a thirty-page section on Chinese covered wooden bridges, particularly of the "woven timber arch-beam" type ... for me they are the main attraction of the entire book. While there are many examples of covered bridges throughout the book, this section concentrates on a particular sub-species, exemplified by rough-hewn behemoths like the Yangmeizhou Bridge."

Leich Weit / Light Structures (Schlaich and Bergermann)
"Jörg Schlaich & Rudolf Bergermann's "Leicht Weit / Light Structures" is a mammoth coffee-table slab documenting the ever-fertile genius of one of Germany's best known design firms. ... Presented throughout in dual German and English, the book marries a series of essays with a lengthy survey of SBP's work written by Annette Bögle.

"It is an essential book for anyone interested in innovative structural engineering. It's well written and well illustrated, and an excellent survey of some of the most innovative work of the late twentieth century, including in the bridge engineering field."

"David McFetrich's "An Encyclopaedia of Britain's Bridges" is easily the largest and most comprehensive book on the subject. The main A-Z section covers 1,350 bridges from England, Scotland and Wales. It's complementary to other books already available, but in its sheer scope, it offers something unavailable elsewhere.

"The curatorial aspect is significant: even an ardent Pontist can't fail to find dozens of structures here which are not only unfamiliar, but also often remarkably interesting, and the Encyclopaedia format naturally leads to providential juxtaposition. You go looking for the Iron Bridge, Shropshire, and become intrigued by the Iron Bridge in Exeter. A chance meeting with David Rowell's Llanstephan Bridge is the result of a search for the Llanrwst Bridge of Inigo Jones.

"Overall, it's a marvellous addition to the literature on British bridges."

Footbridges (Schlaich and Baus)
"'Footbridges' is subtitled "structure - design - history". While those three little words may seem fairly obvious, this first ever major survey of fussgängerbrücken is unusual amongst coffee-table gephyrophilia in that it does actually address how (foot)bridges are designed, not just what they look like. And understanding whether a bridge design is any good relies in great part on understanding why it is how it is.

"Overall, it is an excellent survey of a wide range of interesting structures, many of them not covered in other recent coffee-table assaults on the contemporary bridge, with plenty of excellent photographs that make you want to grab an atlas and plan your next holiday itinerary accordingly. For the professional bridge designer as well as the lay bridge enthusiast, this is not a book to sit proudly on the shelf, but to keep well-thumbed and close at hand."

Traversinersteg (Dechau)
"The second Traversina Footbridge is a highly unusual timber-and-steel suspension bridge, which, like its predecessor, perches high above a precipitous gorge. I only recently discovered that there's an entire book devoted to this bridge, "Traversinersteg", by the photographer Wilfried Dechau. 

"Many of the photos are reproduced at full page size (or to fill a two-page spread), which really does them justice. Use of colour is sparing but effective. My favourites tend to be the photos that are most vertiginous, that capture what is unique about the bridge and its setting.

"There are relatively few bridges which merit a lavish book to themselves, but this is undoubtedly one. It's also a rare book where the design and imagery is as impressive as the structure it describes. It's not going to be casual purchase for anyone, but I'm delighted with it."

"If ever there were a labour of love, this 232-page book is it. The village of Schiers has a population of roughly 2500, yet this locally-published book is nonetheless an unexpectedly lavish tribute to one of the world's greatest bridges, Robert Maillart's Salginatobel Bridge. To my knowledge, it's the only book devoted entirely to this very singular structure.

"The book is in ten chapters, mostly written by Andreas Kessler, but with contributions from Jürg Conzett, Duri Prader (son of the bridge's builder, Florian Prader), and others. There is also an extensive bibliography, several pages of the original bridge design calculations, and three fold-out construction drawings showing the general arrangement of the bridge, the concrete reinforcement, and the timber falsework."

Bridges of Britain (de Maré)
"De Maré's interest in bridges extends well beyond the Victorian era, acknowledging the continental greats like Maillart and Freyssinet, and showing a keen appreciation of modern designs like the Kingsgate and Swanscombe footbridges. Here, I suspect he was ahead of his time. If that wasn't the case for these bridges, then it must surely have been for his inclusion of the Almondsbury Interchange and Tinsley Viaduct.

"'Bridges of Britain' remains an enjoyable book today. While the text is brief, the photos and historical images are excellent. Several photos pick out interesting details on bridges, or appear as almost abstract exercises in geometry. In short, it's a splendid book, communicating the author's enthusiasm effectively, subjective in its opinions where it needs to be, and generous in its open-minded attitude to both the old and the new."

"I found it a hugely impressive and enjoyable book. There are numerous high quality photographs, some reproduced over single and double-page spreads, and colour on every page. To get a book of this size and quality for this price is quite amazing.

"The body of the book covers some 24 countries, and some truly fantastic bridges. There are some duds, but they are distinctly in the minority. Many of the photos are of exceptional quality, and really made me want to add a few new destinations to my future travel plans. Any pontist will find dozens of bridges which are new to them. The accompanying texts are for the most part aimed at the general reader, rather than at engineers or other specialists, although to be honest the book is well worth getting just for the photographs even if you don't have time to read the text."

Failed Bridges: Case Studies, Causes and Consequences (Scheer)
"'Failed Bridges' is the second edition, in English, of a book which first saw print in German. The decision to publish this expanded version in English recognised that engineers around the world often seem to fail to learn from the mistakes in their predecessors, and it was desirable to expand the book's audience much more widely. The literature of bridge failure is lengthy, but not always accessible to practising engineers. The aim of this book is to bring as much data into one volume as possible and thus provide a single point of reference documenting the reasons for past failures, and the lessons which might be learned.

"Overall, "Failed Bridges" is an excellent contribution to the bridge engineering literature. It's singlemindedness doesn't make it an easy book to read right through, but the information it contains should be thought-provoking for younger engineers, and likely to cause many grimaces of recognition for their older colleagues."

Bridges in Slovakia (Paulík)
"'Bridges in Slovakia' is a lavish coffee table gazetteer, a real labour of love, and a book I would unreservedly recommend to Pontists everywhere.

"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."


Droichead said...

Although I guess that any bridge engineer will produce a slightly different list. And having all those 10 (and few many others), I find unmissable Fritz Leonhardt's Bridges/Brucken on that list (published in 1982 and currently out of print, at least the German/English edition in hardcover, the Spanish/French edition is still available).

I would have also included Fernandez Troyano Bridge Engineering, a global perspective (as the most comprehensive non technical bridge book ever published - to my knowledge-).

The Happy Pontist said...

I think I was clear, but in case I was not: this was just the top ten books I have previously reviewed. You may well find that your favourites appear in the next top ten I am about to start publishing!