It’s beautiful, but is it art? Even though it’s a bridge tower, we say yes. This is one of the towers from the Ravenel Bridge on the Cooper River in Charleston, South Carolina.
It’s called a “cable-stayed” bridge because the trafficway is supported by cables which hang from towers. The cables transfer the weight to the towers, which transfer the weight to the ground. These sculpture-like bridges are scattered throughout the US and around the globe. In addition to moving people and vehicles across water, they’re appealing to look at, and fun to cross.
But moving traffic isn’t the only use for these impressive spans. On a pan-flat coast they’re usually the tallest structure around, and there’s no better place to get a stunning view of Charleston, the Cooper River, and Atlantic Ocean in the distance. Community-minded designers included a dedicated pedestrian path up this man-made mountain which gives flatland cyclists and joggers the perfect place for hill-training. And each year 30,000 to 40,000 runners test their mettle on the Ravenel Bridge Run.
Just down the coast is another functional beauty: the Sidney Lanier Bridge in Brunswick, Georgia. Massive car-hauler ships sailing up the Brunswick River need lots of clearance, so not surprisingly, this is the tallest bridge in the state.
From the simple, elegant design of these bridges, you’d expect them to be a modern concept. But in fact, the first cable-stayed bridge was designed in the 16th Century by the bishop and polymath Fausto Veranzio. This bridge and his many other inventions earned him the nickname “The Leonardo da Vinci of Croatia.”
In 1988 the National Endowment for The Arts awarded the prestigious Presidential Design Award to a similar cable-stayed bridge, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, outside Tampa, Florida. So obviously, we’re not the only ones who think these attractive bridges are functional art at its finest.
James & Terri
3. LordTroy via Wikimedia Commons
5. Mike Raybourne via Wikimedia Commons
7. Duve via Wikimedia Commons
8. Sam via Wikimedia Commons
12. Courtesy pbs.org
13. Gus Rios via Wikimedia Commons