If you have read the last few posts you will know that I entered an online bridge competition. I believe I was competing, mostly, against architectural students.
Nothing wrong with that, except for the nagging feeling that as a professional bridge designer, I should have had the winning entry…I am supposed to know what a good bridge concept is and design accordingly.
But competitions are a special arena. Designers have to entertain, appeal to and wow their audience with concepts that may or may not be buildable. After you win the competition then you modify your design into something structurally feasible.
What is the most realistic bridge type for a building to building span? Probably, a steel girder or a steel tube bridge, because of the strength to weight ratio of steel. (A glass bridge, aah, not so much.) If you look at the concepts in the competition, I would venture that at least half are not structurally sound. (But hey, the bridge engineer will fix it later.)
I have had this discussion with HP before, how do you win a bridge competition? I think it depends on who is judging it. It also depends on the type of competition. The designbymany competition was for a theoretical concept, something that will never be built, so the more outrageous the better seems the way to go. Of course you need to include a touch of the possible so that it feels like a bridge.
When the public judges a bridge I think you go for a green, open, curvy structure with good lighting. (LED lighting is the current favorite.) If the people judging the bridge are the ones paying for it (or politically responsible for it), then you want a more practical design.
Obviously this is a bit simplistic but you do have to design for your audience. Which also brings me to the question of what viewpoint are you designing for? (good English that sentence, duh.) By this I mean, are you designing for the outside, people on the street viewers or for the people actually using the structure? Good design does both but I would postulate (HA!) that most designers go for the external, long distance audience.
Think about all the great bridge images showing the whole bridge. How realistic is this viewpoint? For the Golden Gate Bridge, it is perfect, but for something like a building to building bridge, maybe the user viewpoint is the most important. How do you judge intimate details like railings, materials and how traffic uses the bridge?
So when you evaluate a bridge, what is your judging criteria?
What pointers would you give designers?
Here is post where the Happy Pontist gives some good design advice.