Anyone who crosses the Brooklyn bridge is bound to be impressed by the alliance of beauty and functionality in its structure: the 2 impressive brick towers, the massive cables hanging from them and the web of wires connecting the cables to the roadway to keep the bridge from collapsing. And of course there is the overall majesty of the structure, a steady outpost emerging from the East River’s rapidly moving waters against the backdrop of downtown Manhattan’s majestic skyline.
It is indeed an impressive feat of engineering, and all the more so when you think that it has been standing for 130 years and is supporting over 120,000 cars, 4,000 pedestrians and 3,000 bicycles on an average day.
So, I just laid out the facts, but why am I compelled to write a blog post about it? Well, yesterday, I set out to bike across to Brooklyn, and I learnt something new that was quite striking to me and that I wanted to share.
As context, I had just started to work on my very first 3-D art piece (after some time spent with drawing, painting and collage), only to realize that I had many ideas but little proficiency in actually building things. So, as I was crossing the bridge, my interest naturally flowed to the way the bridge was built. And I am amazed to report that the large cables that hold the road are actually made of: 1/8 inch wire! Hard to believe it all starts from such a flimsy material. If you stop by the hardware store and get 1/8 inch wire, you will find that it bends easily and would certainly not set out to build a bridge with it. However, once you strand together 268 pieces of that wire into, well, a “strand”, and then weave 19 of those strands together, you get: the Brooklyn bridge’s cables. They are encased in a lead cover to protect them from the weather, but are basically made of c.5,000 pieces of 1/8 inch wire.
To me, this spoke powerfully of the juxtaposition of strength and vulnerability, and of the power of joining forces. So I will leave you to ponder this, and share your own thoughts on the topic. And my apologies if you now shiver every time you cross a suspended bridge 🙂