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June 13, 2009

Your Turn: Infrastructure


by guest blogger Cara Finnegan

This is the new Interstate 35 bridge in Minneapolis. Built to replace
the one that collapsed in the summer of 2007, the new "smart" bridge
has state-of-the-art design features like sensors that can detect when
the bridge needs de-icing. The photograph by Jonathan Bruce Williams appears as part of today's New York Times Magazine cover story on infrastructure, which declares somewhat sheepishly that its subject is "more exciting than you think, actually."

Infrastructure isn't just an engineering issue; it's also a political one. (Bridge to Nowhere, anyone?).  With that in mind, what's your take on this photo? What are its visual politics?

(image: Jonathan Bruce Williams for the New York Times)

  • Rhodo Zeb

    Firmness, solidity, permanence, development, strength. (Real strength not just power or violence)

  • funkalunatic

    Reminds me of the Jefferson or Lincoln memorial, with the water reflecting the columns and lights behind.

  • funkalunatic

    also reminds me of pictures of new freeways in Shanghai.

  • DennisQ

    I think it’s overdone. Government structures ought to be more modest, especially given the times we live in. My friends were discussing what’s going to replace the World Trade Center, and I offered that it ought to be a lowrise, nondescript building. Others said we ought to be triumphant.
    This particular bridge replaces a bridge that collapsed because of bad design at the outset, followed by years of neglect. That certainly speaks for a design that acknowledges what it replaces. May we finally have a little humility in the public sphere?

  • Books Alive

    My response was politically couched as well – with so much coverage of the election in Iran, I thought this showed some hall with the speaker’s podium in the far distance. Beautiful colors…and I hope it serves the traveling public well for many years.

  • Recluse

    Beautiful picture. Entices me to see if the bridge is also beautiful.
    Visual politics, you ask? Infrastructure is a centered policy, central to life, with lovely symmetrical lights leading the way through the dark middle line of sky. Quite the demarcation when I realized the strength of the pic is on the left. More is happening there. The support column is seemingly stepping up, bigger, stronger, left-wise. There’s more light, more colors, warm color, and a light star! The right? A black hole, with maybe some little thing fizzling there and definitely smaller support.
    And it’s blue! Obviously a lefty bridge! and makes me think of the blue route in PA which was a debacle from the beginning.

  • Wayne Dickson

    I’m probably influenced by the fact that my wife and I saw the new Star Trek movie about a week ago, but it reminds me of standing underneath the Starship Enterprise and looking up a means of transportation to take us into the future.
    As for its being overdone, I can’t see that. The Stephens bridge to nowhere? Absolutely overdone. The Minneapolis bridge to somewhere? That’s nicely done.

  • Kelly Cooper

    I think it looks pretty great. In many ways, in many places, our country looks old and haggard. There are far too many decaying structures that make poor use of space; too many bridges that you wouldn’t dream of building retail shops (or cafes) under. I welcome the next beautiful thing.

  • Apple

    It looks solid and graceful, not an easy mix to attain I think. There is a bridge in Cleveland OH that crosses the Cuyahoga River and was constructed like the one that collapsed in Minneapolis. We would love to have a bridge like this!

  • tlauf

    Looks imperial to me. Perhaps that’s why the DC mall memorials are evoked for some, and Star Trek for others (Mr. Spock, we need you on the bridge!).
    I see Star Wars, one of those giant Imperial cruisers or something. Why is it so smooth and white? Whatever happened to rough and grey concrete? Anyway, I’m glad MN has a new bridge, and I think Cleveland should have one, too. Bridges for everyone!

  • Anonymous

    There’s a hell of a lot of pictures coming in from Iran?
    We not talking about it?

  • Jeremy

    The whites are all cool whites. The graceful arcs lead to a looming overhead structure, stifling. It looks to me like something out of THX 1138 — modern and cold, suggesting of automated tyranny.

  • balisue

    Before I read the text, I had no idea what the picture was! I found it striking, and a bit phallic.

  • The Goob

    I too had a Star Trek moment as my first response, before reading about the subject. I suspect the bridge is nowhere near as attractive from the top, thus the picture from below, lit, at night.
    We no longer build beautiful bridges in this country. They’re too “expensive”.

  • acm

    Disney-land feel, especially the colored lighting.
    would like to see the “normal” side view of the bridge, which could well appear much more pedestrian than the “overdone” critics above suppose…
    very modern and futuristic from this view, though…

  • Books Alive

    Here’s an article“>‘>article with photos of the bridge under construction and a side view of the finished bridge in place.
    Another view:
    Twin Cities
    The same issue of the magazine has a long story about building a high-speed rail connection in California. As background, the author went to France and rode the French high-speed train. He wrote that the ties are made of concrete, not of wood as in the past.

  • Books Alive

    THAT didn’t go very well with photobucket, now did it!
    Here’s the simple link to the Go! story:

  • Hariman

    Just for the record, the new bridge is not only beautiful but also was completed ahead of schedule and under budget. This country needs many more like it, as well as new rail lines, airports, water management systems, you name it. Stimulus, anyone?

  • PS: Public Square

    I can’t look at this image without being reminded of our frequent use of large infrastructure projects to project the dynamic energy of the American people during difficult times (think the Transcontinental Railroad during the Civil War or Golden Gate Bridge during the Great Depression). Here we have a new take on an old favorite, the bridge. Bridges are viewed as stable structures that build relationships by their very nature. But while the soaring Gothic arches implied by the negative space of the support columns remind me of the Brooklyn Bridge, this “smart” bridge is pictured from below. It shows us that there is both beauty and strength in foundations that utilize new technology to face the crucial yet often differed maintenance and responsibility in our society.

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