29 June 2015

10 essential bridges books: 6. The Work of Jörg Schlaich and his Team

I was keen to include in my list of 10 essential bridges books a monograph on a contemporary designer. You can fill a bookshop with monographs on contemporary architects, but you might struggle to fill a shelf with books on specialist bridge designers.

I had a few excellent candidates to choose from. There are at least three fine books on the work of Wilkinson Eyre (Bridging Art and Science (2002), Exploring Boundaries (2007) and Works (2014)). I have several gorgeous volumes on the amazing Swiss engineer Jürg Conzett, including the beautiful early survey Structure as Space (2006). I felt particularly disappointed to have to leave out Wolfdietrich Ziesel's Dream Bridges / Traumbrücken (2004), which is a gorgeous, generously illustrated book about a singular and imaginative designer, but I decided that perhaps Ziesel just has too many unbuilt bridges in his oeuvre.

In the end, the choice was easy: Alan Holgate's The Art of Structural Engineering: The Work of Jörg Schlaich and his Team (Axel Menges, 294pp, 1997). I've previously reviewed a more recent book on Schlaich Bergermann und Partner, Licht Weit / Light Structures (2005), but Holgate's monograph still has much to recommend it.

Jörg Schlaich is undoubtedly one of Germany's most important 20th century structural engineers, and I think, my favourite. The firm that he helped establish has been responsible for a vast array of hugely innovative and fascinating structural engineering, much of which has its roots in Schlaich's experiences working with Fritz Leonhardt on projects such as the Munich Olympics cable net roof. Schlaich Bergermann's work is generally united by a strong sense of ethics: a constant striving for excellence, a desire to minimise use of materials, and frequently a desire for their work to be socially constructive, exemplified by Schlaich's designs for solar power plants.

At the time of publication, Alan Holgate was a Professor at Monash University in Australia (now retired). He had previously authored Aesthetics of Built Form (1992) and The Art in Structural Design (1986), the latter of which is perhaps the most essential and simultaneously least-read book ever written for structural engineering students. Unusually for an author of a coffee-table book about an engineer, Holgate wrote from a position of deep engagement - he understood the engineering but was also able to position it within a wider context.

Much of The Work of Jörg Schlaich and his Team covers projects of seemingly peripheral interest to committed pontists: towers, shell and cable net structures, glass grid roofs, buildings and textile membranes. However, these projects provide numerous excellent illustrations of Schlaich's attention to detail, as well as explanations of how different designs were developed. Here, Holgate draws on the outcome of his own interviews with Schlaich, and does a splendid job of depicting the realities of the design process: often one of false starts and dead ends.

The chapters on bridges are wide ranging in coverage and scale, commencing with the gargantuan Hooghly Bridge and concluding with the intricate Kiel drawbridge. There are some amazing bridges featured. Personal favourites include the Obere Argen viaduct, with its under-deck cable propping system; elegant concepts for high-speed rail viaducts (later realised on the Erfurt - Leipzig/Halle line); and the delightful cable-net footbridge at Löwentor, Stuttgart.

The book is very well illustrated, both with photographs and technical diagrams. These are particularly helpful in drawing attention to Schlaich Bergermann's excellent facility for structural detail, perhaps the area where the firm most excels. Combined with Holgate's detailed, patient and (where necessary) critical text, I came away from the book both informed and inspired.

That, in essence, is what makes me recommend this book. Here is a firm who most engineers can never hope to emulate, but who offer a constant reminder that hard work and intelligence point the way beyond the mundane.

Update 30 June 2015:
A commenter has drawn my attention to the fact that this book might be a little expensive secondhand to describe as "essential". It's certainly not worth paying hundreds of euros, pounds or dollars for, but it is still worth snapping up if you see it at a reasonable price.

23 June 2015

10 essential bridges books: 5. Bridgescape: The Art of Designing Bridges

It seems that bridge designers have been dissatisfied with the appearance of bridges for as long as bridges have been designed.

Certainly in the twentieth century, as the divide between the disciplines of architecture and engineering became clearer, it has been a persistent preoccupation. In 1912, Henry Grattan Tyrrell published Artistic Bridge Design: A Systematic Treatise on the Design of Modern Bridges According to Aesthetic Principles, opening his preface with the words: "A lack of artistic treatment is the greatest fault of American bridges". Tyrrell cited various reasons for poor visual quality of bridges, including price competition, lack of architects' involvement, legal hindrances, but top of his list was simply that engineers were not taught about aesthetics, and little or no literature was available to assist them. Tyrrell's book therefore extensively presented examples of good design, alongside clear guidance on what did and did not work well.

More recently and most notably, Fritz Leonhardt's Brücken (1982) offered a well illustrated survey of bridge design accompanied by a framework of ten key issues which together form a good basis by which designers can evaluate their own work.

Concern over a lack of attention to the visual aspects of bridge design has surfaced periodically in Britain. In 1964, the Ministry of Transport published The Appearance of Bridges, setting out broad principles such as expression of function, relationship to context, proportion, simplicity etc, and suggesting how they could be applied to common types of highway bridge. In 1994, the MoT's successor, the Highways Agency, made aesthetic considerations mandatory in their standard BA41 (latest version BA41/98) The Design and Appearance of Bridges, supplemented with an excellent companion book The Appearance of Bridges and other Highway Structures (1996).

Interest in bridge aesthetics has increased in the USA in recent years, including the establishment of a sub-committee of the Transportation Research Board. As well as their bridge aesthetics website, the TRB published the wide-ranging survey Bridge Aesthetics Around the World (1991) and a Bridge Aesthetics Sourcebook (2010).

Frederick Gottemoeller has been prominent in these efforts to raise American bridge design standards, and his book Bridgescape (John Wiley and Sons, 276pp, 1998) is an excellent source of good sense. Gottemoeller's view is that bridge aesthetics is to some extent objective, that engineers need to play a key role in improving the appearance of bridges, and that they can do so by learning aesthetic ability. His book is targeted not at "iconic" or "landmark" structures, but at the everyday, and most particularly at American highway bridges.

Gottemoeller's "ten determinants of appearance" seem prosaic: vertical and horizontal geometry; superstructure type; pier placement; abutment placement and height; superstructure shape; pier shape; abutment shape; colours; surface texture and ornamentation; and signing, lighting and landscape. However, this is precisely why I enjoy his book so much - it targets the types of bridge which are most common (and often designed most poorly), and addresses them in a manner which is straightforward to understand. His message is: anyone can do this!

Most of Gottemoeller's key guidance is well illustrated with simple sketches and relevant photographs, and often couched in terms of simple geometric rules, such as relating abutment height to end span length on multi-span viaducts. These are ideal for dunderhead engineers, who love rules and formulae, but behind the numbers there is a drip-drip-drip feed of deeper aesthetic principles - proportion, rhythm, the distribution of material to define the space that surrounds it. Readers who persevere seem likely to imbibe an intuitive visual understanding alongside what seems to be simple and algorithmic.

Bridgescape ranges far beyond being a simple manual for use in better distributing lumps of concrete. It encourages readers to come to terms with their personal aesthetic responsibilities, and gives them a simple design language to make their journey less painful. It offers plenty of real-world examples, both good and bad. It tackles issues of cost, and discusses how design engineers can collaborate with others - especially with the general public, that perennial bugbear of the American design process.

Some of the advice is local or specific to certain types of bridge, but most of it is broadly useful. It's one of the books on bridge aesthetics where I can remember the content most clearly, and that's a testament to the author's patient, straightforward explanation. I think there should be no highway bridge designer without this book on their shelf, and more widely it should be of interest to anyone concerned with creating simple, effective, visually appropriate bridge designs.

(Footnote: I've reviewed the 1st edition of this book. However, the 2nd edition from 2004 is the one to get, with updated material and far more photographs in colour).

19 June 2015

Totally awesome bridge design competition

I imagine that shortly after the Tintagel Castle Bridge Design Competition was announced yesterday it was possible to hear the sound of an enormous chorused "slurp", as bridge designers everywhere (and I do mean everywhere) licked their lips at the prospect unveiled before them.

Tintagel Castle is one of the historic treasures of Cornwall, a spectacularly situated 13th century ruin, perched upon a rocky headland, and reachable only via lengthy steps and a short bridge. It is protected within the custody of English Heritage, who have decided that it is time for a new bridge, to be situated some 28m above the existing span. This will provide greatly improved access to the site, as well as opening up impressive new views. EH are running a design competition to find a £4m bridge which they hope will be both "elegant" and "structurally daring" (mercifully, the word "iconic" is absent).

It's difficult to think of a more challenging site. It is of huge visual and historic sensitivity, with the Castle and surrounding landscape garnished with a substantial number of official protective designations. In addition, access for construction will be extremely difficult - it is far from straightforward even to bring in plant for site investigations, let along for building works.

The bridge design competition will have two stages: an open prequalification stage, followed by a concept design stage for up to six shortlisted teams, each of whom will receive a £5,000 honorarium. Expressions of interest must be submitted by Tuesday 21st July, and the shortlist is expected to be announced in late August. A competition winner should be declared in January 2016, and English Heritage expect to open the new bridge in 2019.

It's a marvellous opportunity for talented designers to show what they can do, and I hope the selection process and competition judging will allow some truly exceptional teams and concepts to emerge.

Photo courtesy of Matthew Kirkland (Creative Commons license).

17 June 2015

10 essential bridges books: 4. Highland Bridges

Out of many bridge guidebooks in my collection, Gillian Nelson's Highland Bridges (Aberdeen University Press, 224pp, 1990) [amazon.co.uk] is my favourite.

In her introductory essay, Nelson discusses the three basic types of bridge: beam bridge, arch bridge, and suspension bridge. It seems to me that the remainder of the book then goes on to comprehensively demonstrate how futile such simple categorisations can be.

The book is a product of the author's own extensive explorations of the Scottish Highlands, and documents a truly fabulous variety of bridges both historic and modern. It is arranged geographically, so that, for example, all the bridges of Lower Speyside form a chapter. Each bridge is given a map reference, and, where necessary, directions by which to find it. The text combines factual details on the nature and history of the bridges with the author's own opinions, and there are a good number of photographs.

These may seem like the basic essentials for any guidebook, but it is amazing how few books in this field manage to do such a good job. Highland Bridges is both reasonably comprehensive, detailed and yet highly readable. It is a friendly book, suitable for readers both lay and expert, and of the type that makes you immediately wish to plan a bridge-viewing journey.

This book introduced me to a number of bridges which I would not otherwise have encountered, mostly notably the astonishing Craigmin Bridge, but also the beautiful Maryhill House footbridge. Its coverage is generally excellent, with both the famous and the unknown given equal space.

What jumps out at me the most is the sheer variety of types of bridges to be found in the Scottish Highlands. There are many beautiful stone arches and quite a few charming suspension bridges, but also a staggering range of oddities, such as the fortress-like concrete Findhorn Bridge; the intricate Dredge designs at Whin Park and Bridge of Oich; rare timber trestles at Broomhill and Aultnaslanach; and much, much more. I think there are few areas of the United Kingdom so well equipped with such fascinating, intriguing and bizarre bridges.

16 June 2015

Bridges news roundup

I've not rounded up any bridges news for a while, so here are a handful of things that caught my eye recently ...

Expert slams Garden Bridge business case
Apparently, the Garden Bridge project is a fiasco dressed up in a farrago, disguised as a farce.

The case for exempting projects from open procurement
Should pet projects like the Garden Bridge be permitted an exemption to normal competitive procurement, especially when it leads to things like the absurd procurement process by which Heatherwick Studio beat off two other designers to proceed with what had always been their own design proposal?

A Folly for London
Here's a lovely idea, a free, open, presumably not-pre-decided-at-all competition to come up with an idiotic idea whereby central London can be permanently ruined. Satirical, of course.

Boris agrees to underwrite Garden Bridge’s maintenance costs
Having previously promised that taxpayers will never have to cover the running costs of the Garden Bridge, London's mayor has had a change of heart. It's hard to see now why anyone else would cover those costs, when they know the London taxpayer is underwriting it all.

Design of new pedestrian bridge linking East Perth to Burswood revealed
Interesting new design in Perth, Australia. And look, it's got trees on it!

This Robot Can 3-D Print A Steel Bridge In Mid-Air
I expect that 3d printing of steel will never be an economic alternative to more conventional construction, but this is a genuinely exciting project, and I'd love to see more being made of robotics to help build complex structures.

14 June 2015

10 essential bridges books: 3. The Architecture of Bridges

Back in 1949, the Museum of Modern Art was taking bridges seriously as a subject for their attention. Elizabeth Mock was MoMA's director for architecture and industrial design, and a committed advocate for modernism. The Architecture of Bridges (MoMA, 1949, 128pp) [amazon.co.uk] has been described by the Encyclopaedia Britannica as "the first major book on bridges to give a modern viewpoint".

It was a significant occasion. Most books on bridges prior to this point were historical in their intent, such as Henry Grattan Tyrrell's History of Bridge Engineering (1911) or Charles Whitney's Bridges: A Study in Their Art, Science and Evolution (1929). Where those authors did provide information on what was happening in the present day, it was largely focussed upon the large and most heroic spans that provided the key milestones in early 20th-century bridge engineering.

Mock's book was probably the first authored from an entirely different perspective, recognising that as large-scale industrial structures, bridges could embody key tenets of modernism, such as form following function, exposure of structure, and elimination of detail.

Mock wrote:
"Beauty is not automatic; technical perfection alone is not enough. A great engineer is not a slave to his formulas. He is an artists who uses his calculations as tools to create working shapes as inevitable and harmonious as the natural laws behind them. He handles his material with poetic insight, revealing its inmost nature while extracting its ultimate strength through structure appropriate to its unique powers".
She was not alone in her mid-century recognition that engineers could be more than calculators. Architecture critic Sigfried Giedion had championed the Swiss bridge designer Robert Maillart, including him in his seminal book Space, Time and Architecture and exhibiting photographs of his bridges at MoMA in 1946. Artist and designer Max Bill also published a comprehensive overview of Maillart's work, Robert Maillart: Bridges and Constructions, in 1949.

The Architecture of Bridges also heavily features the bridges of Maillart, but is wide-ranging in overall scope, and critically acute. It features a who's who of (mostly) 19th and early 20th-century bridge engineers, and cheerfully mixes the well known (Stephenson, Brunel, Leonhardt) with the obscure, wherever it can find aesthetic merit. It features a number of essentially generic bridges alongside the more famous examples, for example, typical highway overbridges from the USA and Germany, offering a keen appreciation of their aesthetic successes and failures.

The book establishes a coherent critical vocabulary which remains relevant today, being bold and perceptive in its judgements. Many others have followed after, although primarily from a position as engineers themselves (Mock paved the way for the writing of Fritz Leonhardt, Frederick Gottemoeller and David Billington, amongst others).

I think The Architecture of Bridges remains significant today precisely because it is a fine example of a viewpoint from outside the engineering field which nonetheless shows a good understanding of engineering issues and uses these to address a broader audience. If it seems at first glance to be essentially a picture-book, it hides within its many picture captions a well thought-out and provocative aesthetic philosophy.

I admire it as much for this as just for the way it documents so many interesting and exciting bridges.

MoMA's entanglement with modern engineering did not end here, either. In 1964, the Museum published Twentieth Century Engineering, which entirely omits the architectural criticism but includes many exceptional photographs of industrial and civil engineering work, bridges and buildings but also dams, radio telescopes, tunnels, masts, water towers and much more.

07 June 2015

10 essential bridges books: 2. Living Bridges

In 1996, London's Royal Academy of Arts hosted an exhibition titled "Living Bridges: The inhabited bridge, past, present and future". The exhibition presented a host of real and never-realised inhabited bridges both from history and more modern times, and also played host to a speculative bridge design contest, the Thames Water Habitable Bridge Competition.

It was an eye-opening exhibition, and the accompanying book (Prestel, 1996, 158pp) [amazon.co.uk] was (and is) a splendid companion. It's a thoroughly well-researched account of the inhabited bridge from mediaeval to modern times, and extremely well-illustrated.

Early inhabited bridges included fortified bridges, and also chapel bridges. The fortifications were essential to ensure that a bridge's primary purpose in enabling trade could not lead to the spans providing a too-convenient route through a city's defensive walls. The chapel often recognised that bridges were built to combine religious favour with a practical purpose. Several early inhabited bridges incorporated both features, as at London Bridge and the Pont d'Avignon.

Another common feature of early inhabited bridges was an association with businesses requiring proximity to the river, such as watermills. The Pont de Blois incorporated no less than five watermills at one time. Other businesses took advantage of the opportunity to front onto one of a city's most used thoroughfares, while residences took advantage of the direct route to the river for sewage. Including buildings on a bridge was attractive to those who built and owned the structures, as income from rent could help towards the costs of maintaining the bridge.

Living Bridges features extensive accounts of these early bridges, accompanied by period illustrations and numerous reproductions of paintings, lithographs etc. Bridges which have survived to the present day are represented with photographs. It's a goldmine of interesting information which I don't believe is covered in such depth anywhere else.

In addition to well known bridges such as the Ponte Vecchio, Ponte de Rialto and Pulteney Bridge, the book features a number of speculative proposals including John Soane's 1776 Triumphal Bridge or Gustave Eiffel's 1878 scheme for the Pont d'Iena in Paris.

These ideas often seem megalomanical by today's standards, with examples of a tendency towards the gargantuan including Raymond Hood's "skyscraper" bridge in New York, and Cedric Price's proposal to bury much of the River Thames in a lengthy culvert. Although such ideas were more than a little crazy, they reflect a wider sense of the inhabited bridge as a utopian vision insensitive to any reasonable context. Many inhabited bridges seem visually attractive in their own right, but have the effect of blocking views both of riverbanks and along a river.

City rivers are now valued primarily as open space within a crowded urban context, and the idea of depositing a new building into such a context seems more than a little foolish. Nonetheless, Living Bridges offers numerous examples of modern proposals to do precisely this, with some kind of romantic attraction to visions of Old London Bridge trumping common sense again and again.

For such a niche subject, this is an ambitious and thought-provoking book, which ably explains the attractions of the habitable bridge while exposing its many flaws. Long since the Royal Academy exhibition, proposals for inhabited bridges continue to emerge, most of them absurd, but this excellent survey of the subject remains the definite resource for understanding what such bridges have been in the past, and might still be one day in the future.

04 June 2015

10 essential bridges books: 1. Bridge Engineering: A Global Perspective

This is one of the most expensive books on my bridges bookshelf, but one which remains excellent value for money.

Leonardo Fernández Troyano's Bridge Engineering: A Global Perspective (Thomas Telford Publishing, 2003, 796pp) [amazon.co.uk] was originally published in Spanish in 1999. Troyano is the son of noted Spanish engineer Carlos Fernández Casado, and a great designer in his own right.

It's a monumental slab of a book, addressing its topic over nine chapters. The introduction discusses bridges in context, as objects, forms, works of engineers and as part of our heritage. Before plunging into the detail that fills the remainder of his book, Troyano takes time to discuss issues ranging from the importance of design being unified and led by a person of appropriate competence, through to the various approaches to bridge aesthetics that have been suggested over the years. Troyano is a perceptive writer and much of the introductory chapter would make a worthwhile essay if read in other contexts.

A second chapter, on the historical evolution of bridges offers a template by which much of the remainder of the book can be read: the adoption of new modern materials and their use to establish new structural forms. It also notes how much of the history of bridge development is a history of failure, as a spur to the understanding of hazards and the development of solutions to supersede them. A section which I found disappointingly brief covers treatment of historic bridges, adaptation, refurbishment and replacement. Most of the book addresses the design and construction of new structures, but the reality of "bridge engineering" is that much of it (at least in terms of what engineers actually do, day-to-day, certainly in the developed world) is devoted to operation and maintenance of existing structures. However,this is an enormous book, and it's understandable that it can't cover every topic.

Troyano goes on to consider in more detail the various materials of which bridges are made, and how these have led to specific developments in construction and form. This thread then continues in later chapters, so that, for example, a chapter on beam bridges discusses timber beams, mixed timber and iron girders, metal girders, etc. Re-reading this chapter today, I am initially struck by what Troyano omits. There is little or no discussion of the function and behaviour of spandrel walls on brick and stone arch bridges, for example, or of hollow and voided spandrel construction. Neither of these are insignificant things.

However, what is highly impressive is how Troyano marshals a history of engineering achievement: larger spans, new geometries, all very well illustrated with a range of structures from all around the world. There are countless bridges in this book that I would never otherwise have encountered. He's also very good on aspects of bridge engineering which are sometimes forgotten, with an interesting review, under the general heading of timber bridges, of timber centrings used in the construction of stone or concrete spans.

A useful general chapter brings together the development of bridge engineering theory, forces on bridges, generic geometries such as curvature and skew, and begins to introduce the ways in which bridges are actually built. This is, I think, the strongest thread throughout Bridge Engineering, its in-depth consideration of methods for fabrication, assembly and installation of bridge structures. This theme continues throughout the four main chapters of the book, which cover arch bridges, beam bridges, frame bridges, and cable-supported bridges.

For example, the chapter on arch bridges includes sections on building on centring, with a scaffolding arch-truss, by the cantilever method, by half-arches, by a suspended cable, and by horizontal and vertical movements. There are some spectacular construction photographs here and throughout the book, a testament to the author's research. I learned a lot from this book, and particularly regarding construction possibilities.

Troyano is at his best when dealing with the opportunities of scale - ever longer spans, major structures, impressive feats, new advances in technology. This is not a book with a keen focus on the small and everyday, and that does mean that certain types of bridge receive short shrift. One example could be the half-through girder bridge, popular on the railways and for some footbridges, but here a casualty of megalophilia. Perhaps relating to this is a concentration on the behaviour of bridges as spanning structures i.e. their strength and stiffness as seen from a side elevation. Little is said about issues of primary concern when seen in cross-section, such as transverse load distribution or out-of-plane buckling, although for many types of bridges these are primary design criteria which have a key effect on the size of the structure and on how it is built.

The book's final chapter covers more unusual structures, including floating bridges, moveable bridges and transporter bridges. This includes some fascinating historical material, especially on floating spans.

When thinking of which books about bridges I might include in a "top ten", Troyano's was at the top of my list. I still find it staggering that anyone could have even attempted such a detailed survey of the topic, let alone completed it. Almost every page is illustrated, and there are countless photographs of intriguing, impressive and amazing structures. Troyano ably discusses technology without ever becoming unduly technical - I think a general reader could get as much out of this book as a professional (although clearly, they'd have to be a bridge nut). I've drawn on the content of the book for a number of different purposes in my professional life, and expect to continue to do so for many years to come - I can't see this authoritative, encyclopaedic tome being surpassed any time soon.

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."