Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Bridge as a Relational Metaphor

Image from iStockphoto.

The bridge can be thought of as a relational metaphor about establishing connections. Driving along on the Zeeland Bridge, which is the longest bridge in the Netherlands, you feel as if you’re magically riding on water. Writer/designer, George Nelson writes insightfully about bridges in his book, How to See:


Of all the structures and machines used for going places, the bridge is unique. Unlike the road, an earthbound strip, the bridge leaps, taking imagination with it. Like the plane, it defies gravity, but noiselessly. It “moves” with infinite grace without going anywhere. It never causes visual pollution; it soars across rivers and chasms, enhancing natural environments. The names of great bridge builders [and bridges] are remembered.

The beauty of bridges, as we perceive the best of them, is related to the fact that they are a single-purpose design, and that all of their components are directly related to this one purpose. Everyone understands what a bridge is and does. The same is true of aqueducts.

Technology, while continually refining bridge design, has little effect on our response: The Pont-du-Gard, built by the Romans a thousand years ago, is as satisfying an ornament in the French landscape today as it ever was. … [1]
  1. Nelson, George. How to See: A Guide to Reading Our Manmade Environment. Boston, Toronto: Little, Brown and Company, 1977. 129-33. Print.

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