When people in the United States today hear the term "London Bridge," they are most likely to think of one of the most peculiar sights anywhere within the United States that of the London Bridge in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Surrounded by faked-up Tudor buildings and busloads of tourists, the large bridge is dwarfed by the majesty of the desert Southwest. The entire enterprise stands as a monument to a deep human appreciation for irony, for what else could explain the immense cost and energy that went into transporting such an immense structure such a long way for so very little purpose. But this peculiar structure in the desert is in fact not the real London Bridge at all (if any bridge can in fact lay claim to that title, which seems unlikely), but the New London Bridge, designed in 1831 by the Scottish engineer John Rennie
It might be hyper-modern, a strong, sound construction of metal designed tolast millennia rather than centuries, clean-limbed, flaunting the ribs andtransoms of its construction. Masonry is a durable and venerable building material, but modernarchitects find it problematic for its tendency to shift and for theconstant repair (or re-pointing) required to keep the mortar intact. Problems in maintaining a sufficiently highlevel of watertight-ness were caused by both the natural forces of erosionworking on the stone and the vibrations from heavy traffic across thebridge and prompted many of the repairs that the bridge was subjected toduring its lifetime, and it was the continual deterioration of its pieragesthat prompted it to be replaced by New London Bridge. Theentire enterprise stands as a monument to a deep human appreciation forirony, for what else could explain the immense cost and energy that wentinto transporting such an immense structure such a long way for so verylittle purpose. (1998). CD Version. Italso sported a drawbridge in the middle, creating a compromise betweenpermanence and flexibility, for one of the problems of bridge building hasalways been to balance the needs of pedestrians and earth-bound vehicles(who want bridge wide and stable and permanently available) and boats (whosee bridges only as impediments). (1973). To provide this proper support, the bridge rested on 2 piers. The process of building stone edifices was popular among the manyNormans who moved to London after the conquest, no doubt in some largemeasure because they wanted structures that could be easily defended if thenative population became restive. Encyclopedia Britannica. (Today the province of Normandy is replete withancient stone buildings that are still both beautiful and sound.) The continuing influence of Norman architectural ideas as well as thepresence of the descendants of Norman masons may have influenced theleaders of the city when in 1176 they tore down the existing wooden bridgerebuilt it with stone. Agreat deal of civic construction followed the building of the Tower. Phoenix, AZ: Carlos Elmer. Or perhaps the bridge would be built (still mostly of modern metalalloys) with a sense of its history -- with stores and even houses oncemore along its span. Thesewere filled with rubble. Old London Bridge is not enshrined in the Arizona desert, noranywhere else in the world. In 1832, the historic stones that had been thebridge for more than six centuries were torn apart and scattered throughoutthe island, to end up in garden walkways and rural walls. The Thames that flows through London is in several ways thearchetypal site for a bridge. While London had only 1 , to15, inhabitants in 1 85, by 12 it had 3 , people (EncyclopediaBritannica, CD entry on London). Those people were a heterogeneous lotethnically, including Danes, Germans, Flemish, Italians, and Gascons alongwith the English and the Normans. And, inevitably,these pathways in time became long enough that they crossed over streamsand rivers. The Romans mayhave been the first to lay a masonry-constructed span across the ThamesRiver, for the Romans...
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