Archive for the ‘new york’ Tag

The Brooklyn Bridge

This is one of the must-do walks in New York, both for residents and visitors. Two bridges in New York were mentioned by Le Corbusier in his 1947 book When the Cathedrals were White, one being the George Washington Bridge, then a teenager, the other being the Brooklyn Bridge, a mature 60-something at the time.

” Brooklyn Bridge, which is old. . . is as strong and rugged as a gladiator, while the George Washington Bridge, built yesterday, smiles like a young athlete. In this case the two large Gothic towers of stroke are very handsome because they are American and not ‘ Beaux-Arts.’ They are full of native sap . . .”

Like the George Washington Bridge, it’s a noisy walk, with traffic roaring beneath, but the poetry of the bridge lies in the cables, which surround you like a spider web when you walk close to the towers. The walkway, in the center of the bridge, is suspended  above the traffic, and the cables and the bricks become part of the panorama of New York as you walk it, the skylines of midtown and the financial district poking through the web. On a sunny day, it can feel as crowded as Manhattan, with enough human and bike traffic to feel like Times Square, with dozens of languages overheard.

Gothic glory.

It’s an overbuilt bridge, on purpose, in the days before aerodynamics or computers, the towers are squat and solid from a distance, and yet the structure comes across as being delicate from up close. I don’t think Roebling anticipated the amount of traffic that crosses the bridge daily, and yet, the bridge has stood up to all of it, and has weathered the last 130 years of glory and cataclysm in the city.

Tower up close.

Next stop, the Manhattan Bridge. . .

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The George Washington Bridge

This is the only bridge from New Jersey into Manhattan, and the only route that can be walked or biked, accessed by negotiating the tangle of traffic lanes, overpasses, gates, and underpasses that all meet at the toll plaza. Driving from New Jersey, you only see it at the last moment, a shiny steel structure that rises above the Palisades. Walking across is noisy, with traffic rumbling underneath, perpetual traffic jams on the upper level, construction, renovation, exhaust, and an ever-present vibration from the endless streams of lorries crossing it daily. It’s not a particularly pleasant experience. Although walking across is the best way to appreciate it up close, the best view is from the Fort Lee park that presents several vantage points of the bridge, where the traffic and noise are far enough away that the grace of the structure literally shines, 80 years new.

West tower, closeup, the beauty of exposed steel.

Can’t say it better than Le Corbusier: ” The George Washington Bridge over the Hudson is the most beautiful bridge in the world. Made of cables and steel beams, it gleams in the sky like a reversed arch. It is blessed. It is the only seat of grace in the disordered city. It is painted an aluminum color and, between water and sky, you see nothing but the bent cord supported by two steel towers. When your car moves up the ramp the two towers rise so high that it brings you happiness; their structure is so pure, so resolute, so regular that here, finally, steel architecture seems to laugh. The car reaches an unexpectedly wide apron; the second tower is very far away; innumerable vertical cables, gleaming against the sky, are suspended from the magisterial curve which swings down and then up. The rose-colored towers of New York appear, a vision whose harshness is mitigated by distance.

". . . the only seat of grace in the disordered city."