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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Wednesday November 22 2006

The other night I was browsing through my photos in search of a quota photo, and I came across a bunch of photos which I took just before visiting Bruce the Real Photographer.  That was the night we did our podcast, during which Bruce talked, among other things, and in connection with his amazing Oxford picture, about how bad weather can be good for photography.  The point being that the sun only has to peep through on a bad day, and the results can be special, far more so than on a completely nice day.  Well, the weather just before Bruce and I talked was somewhat like that, there being plenty of dramatic clouds around as well as blue sky, and I was a bit ahead of myself and filled the time by taking photos.

All these snaps were taken on the Albert Bridge, the other side of which being where Bruce the Real Photographer lives.  It’s the kind of London structure you tend to take for granted, but it deserves a closer look from time to time.

These two show what kind of ornate beast it is:

imageimage

I love all that metallic complexity, combining decorativeness with structure.  Fogers and Roster eat your hearts out.

These are views from the bridge, looking upstream and downstream:

imageimage

And here are the obligatory artistic type close-ups of the iron-work:

imageimage

I especially like the light bulbs.

Look out for: two airplanes; and: the pointy docklands tower.

That Wikipedia bit linked to above reveals that the bridge was strengthened in 1884, which would account for why, if you look closely, you will see that it uses two separate structural systems.  Very odd.  A classic London jumble, I think.

And, I have just noticed from Wikipedia, and from its picture top right, that there now are also central supports for the bridge, added in the 1970s apparently, which remind me of those extra cheating type central legs that cheap double beds (such as mine) have in the middle of them.  So that’s three support systems.

A dangerous thing to take an interest in, the Albert Bridge. Many the souls there are, condemned to walk the earth through eternity and to add to every Albert Bridge blog post a comment about the sign on it telling soldiers to break step when crossing. It’s too late for me but others can etc.

Posted by James Hamilton on 23 November 2006

Yes, I always break step when I walk across it.

For me the two structures in one thing is infinitely odder.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 23 November 2006

The Hungerford Bridge is even more curious. There are three structures in that one.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 23 November 2006

I disagree.  Hungerford Bridge is one railway bridge and two footbridges.  Three structures, three bridges.  That’s not curious.  Albert Bridge is three structures for ONE bridge, each built at different times.  I think that’s far more curious.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 23 November 2006

No, that isn’t what I was referring to. Look at the Hungerford Bridge carefully next time you go over it. There are some structural elements that indicate that it was originally a suspension bridge. It was converted later into a different kind of bridge entirely.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 23 November 2006

Michael’s right - Hungerford is both one of the most altered bridges you’ll ever come across but also one of the most mucked-about. Started life as a pedestrian suspension bridge, then was adapted into a railway bridge. As the first bridge was designed by Brunel, one can only assume he was guilty of his usual spectacular over-engineering.

Posted by James Hamilton on 23 November 2006

So, what you are all saying is that the Hungerford Bridge is now three bridges and FIVE structures.

Any advance on five structures for a bridge or group of bridges?

Next time I visit Hungerford Bridge, I will try to remember to do some more photoing, to confirm all this weirdness.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 23 November 2006

It occurs to me that these bizarre second and third thoughts in former times make the difficulties with the Millenium Bridge seem like very small potatoes indeed by comparison.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 23 November 2006

Once upon a time, the forces that might cause a bridge to collapse were not well understood. This was usually dealt with by a brute force approach: by making the bridge much more massive than would be necessary if they were well understood. Things like bridge towers and foundations were not necessarily adapted to the design of the bridge - they were just very massive. So, when a bridge was rebuilt to a different design they could be reused, as in the two bridgies discussed here.

As bridge stability became better understood, bridges became less massive and their foundations, towers and structures became more adapted to the specific design of the bridge in question. Tolerances became smaller and bridges less over engineered. Occasional setbacks (most notably the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse in the 1930s) occurred when stability turned out to be less well understood than was thought, but the trend to less massive bridges with more specific features continues more or less to this day.

The engineers will not like me for saying this, but the Millennium Bridge was a simple screw up. The issues that made it unstable are actually well understood - they just weren’t understood by the specific engineers who designed it.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 24 November 2006
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