Monday, June 16, 2014

The Yin to the Queensboro Bridge's Yang

In my last post, I described how the Queensboro Bridge is a utilitarian cantilever span dressed up with decorative touches, such as masonry towers, domes and finials.

Well, it occurs to me that another bridge is the exact opposite of the Queensboro: the George Washington.

Photo courtesy of

During the whole Bridgegate scandal, I learned an interesting fact about this span: Its signature look was basically created by accident.

From Wikipedia:
The original design for the towers of the bridge called for them to be encased in concrete and granite. However, because of cost considerations during the Great Depression and favorable aesthetic critiques of the bare steel towers, this was never done. The exposed steel towers, with their distinctive criss-crossed bracing, have become one of the bridge's most identifiable characteristics.
So with the Queensboro, they made a cantilever bridge beautiful by gussying it up. With the George Washington, they made a suspension bridge beautiful by stripping it down.

Both bridges have their fans. While F. Scott Fitzgerald praised the Queensboro, the French architect Le Corbusier was #TeamGWB.

From Le Corbusier's 1937 book, "When the Cathedrals Were White":
The George Washington Bridge over the Hudson is the most beautiful bridge in the world. Made of cables and steel beams, it gleams in the sky like a reversed arch. It is blessed. It is the only seat of grace in the disordered city. It is painted an aluminum color and, between water and sky, you see nothing but the bent cord supported by two steel towers. When your car moves up the ramp the two towers rise so high that it brings you happiness; their structure is so pure, so resolute, so regular that here, finally, steel architecture seems to laugh.
Maybe so, though I doubt the people stuck in traffic last year were quite so elated.