I am fascinated and saddened by the Wear Bridge argument. It emphasises why we must take care to intertwine the professions to produce elegant solutions.
The engineering response has been called “aggressive sniping” at the architectural profession. The fact is that the architectural form rails aggressively against engineering function. In no other image of intricate and stunning cable-stayed bridges will you find such unbalanced loading, such aggressivelytensioned masts, such tortured foundations.
The engineering profession welcomes architectural beauty, and in stating its opinion seeks to guide a form as pleasing to the eye as it is to the pocket of the taxpayer, whose money it is, which is currently being directed toward resolving unnecessary forces.
Sunderland’s website describes the image of the bridge as “an artist’s impression”. As an engineer, my lasting impression is of the eff ort required to fire a longbow by holding it at its end. Beauty? Or a beast?
In last week’s NCE Michel Virlogeux’s Millau viaduct is compared to the Wear bridge. Not really. In Millau one sees elegant simplicity in architecture melded with engineering artistry to stunning, and cost effective, success. Compare Calatrava’s cunningly counterbalanced “Harp” or elegantly lacy Samuel Beckett bridge with perhaps Rotterdam’s heavily back-stayed crossing.
The subtlest of changes to conceptual insistence can turn nightmare to dream. It can be done, but let gravity decide the best form. Join forces?
- Chris Gane (M), firstname.lastname@example.org
The wrong kind of grit
With regard to his letter “Hot under the collar over grit” (Letters last week), I fear Berry Kenny is confused here between the type of materials being applied.
Myles Huthwaite was correct in his statement that grit is only used for temperatures of minus 9°C or below, since it does not offer the thawing effect which salt provides in temperatures of zero to minus 9°C. This is why grit is not specified for temperatures above minus 9°C.
Kenny’s son may well spread grit on footways above this temperature in Elsworth since this is often used on footways, as it is more appropriate for pedestrian traffic due to its non-production of slush.
- Chris Bowley email@example.com
Apply Beeching to the roads
I hesitate to make the obvious conclusion, but highway maintenance is clearly not a political priority and the backlog is continuing to increase (NCE last week).
Perhaps the solution is therefore to repeat the approach adopted 50 years ago by Dr Richard Beeching and designate a substantial proportion of the highway network for closure.
This could be managed by halting maintenance entirely on the lesser trafficked roads and lanes and converting these to non-vehicle traffic routes once they deteriorate to a significant degree. Any maintenance funding would then be concentrated on the priority network.
My experience overseas clearly shows that permitting infrastructure to deteriorate and then in due course be replaced by new, more modern, infrastructure is politically a more acceptable approach than funding on-going maintenance. Perhaps we should recommend this too.
I agree that “a stitch in time saves nine” but if we cannot convince our political decisionmakers of this, then we need to adopt a realistic alternative.
- CPK Sherwood, 10 Clifton Place, York YO30 6BJ
In defence of Chinese steel
On the basis of the definition of a civil engineer being a person “who can do for a dollar what any darn fool can do for two”, I have no problem with the use of Chinese steel and expertise being used in the new Forth Bridge (Letters last week).
A recent visit to Shanghai and elsewhere in China will demonstrate that the Chinese have built more long span suspension bridges in recent decades than the UK.
As a civil engineer who spent six years in China working on the construction supervision of major projects, I have a great respect for the quality of Chinese engineers and engineering.
If they can win the contract in accordance with all the stringent specifi cations, codes of practice and testing regimes which will be required on the new Forth Bridge, then so be it. If a UK firm tenders for a project in China, it would not expect the Chinese government to stipulate a bias in favour of Chinese
- Brian Bromwich (F), firstname.lastname@example.org