Do you like Bridge Competitions? If yes, keep reading as we come to the real question. What makes a good bridge competition? A student contacted the Happy Pontist essentially asking that question. (go there and share your ideas!)
I like bridge competitions, I like seeing the creativity of designers of all abilities (and heights!) trying to incorporate their vision into a buildable bridge.
What I hate is the way competitions are run in the United States. Most competitions are safe affairs, typically with prequalification requirements that keep out the individual designer.
This makes sense for the owners who are deathly afraid of public disapproval. Bridge projects are usually funded with public money and the last thing you want is your tax dollars going towards an “extravagant” design. The feeling is the government should only produce practical, non-descript grey structures. Don’t spend my money on frills! (or teachers for that matter, snark.)
When I work with communities I often hear the opposite, please design something that enhances our neighborhood instead of the standard bridge. So in a perfect world, how would I run bridge design competition?
I would like a competition to be broad enough to include the unknown designer. Give a chance to ideas that come out of left field. Give a chance to designers from small firms to get noticed. Create some Calatravas in America. Allow engineers the opportunity to enter, show their work to the world, and defend their ideas from critics. Allow the public a chance to see good and bad designs, so we can encourage them in the right direction when they have to pick a design.
(I think the competition for the second Calgary pedestrian bridge was a fair competition and a pretty good model for future contests. (I will nit-pick how the judging was set up, but that is another story.))
Look how this helped Maya Lin become famous. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_Lin
“Lin believes that if the competition had not been “blind”, with designs submitted by number instead of name, she “never would have won”. (Because she was an unknown, obviously, won out of 1400+ entrants AND a student. But a brilliant design!) And don’t get me started on Linsanity….
All I am saying, is give (bridge designers) a chance. (with apologies to John Lennon.)
Look I’m inspecting bridges under water! (Hey I had/have a scuba license.)