The Strength of Beauty

What makes a bridge strong? Is it the materials used, or the engineering technology employed in its creation? Is it how much weight it can hold, or what natural phenomena it can withstand?

The Stari Most Bridge at Night

Perhaps the strongest bridge in the world is the Firth of Forth Bridge in Queensferry, Scotland. It manages some of the heaviest freight train loads transported in the world.

Or maybe it’s the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge in Kobe, Japan, which regularly withstands typhoons and tsunamis.

But what if the secret to strength lies in another direction altogether?

What if a bridge can be built so strong that no stockpile of war-grade explosives can destroy it? What if a bridge can be built so strong, that it rebuilds itself? What if a bridge can be built so strong, that it can change locations if it comes under threat?

The Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy

The Ponte Vecchio

During WWII, when Hitler’s military was evacuating Florence, Italy, orders were given to destroy all the bridges into the city. And all the bridges were destroyed, except for one.

The Ponte Vecchio survived. It was decided by Hitler that the Ponte Vechio was too beautiful to destroy, and was left standing. In this case, beauty was stronger than all of the explosives on hand in Hitler’s forces.

The Stari Most

The Stari Most bridge, a beautiful example of Balkan Islamic Architecture in Bosnia, was destroyed in 1993 by Croat paramilitary forces during the Croat–Bosniak War. This bridge was so beautiful, and thus so well-loved, that plans immediately were set into motion by an international team to rebuild it.

Each and every stone the rehabilitation team could find was retrieved from the water below by specially-trained divers. The entire bridge was put back together using 16th century technology to ensure that it was rebuilt as closely to its original form as possible.

Show me a bridge built today that could inspire that level of love and devotion –  that if it were destroyed the world would unite to rebuild it. The Stari Most is a strong bridge indeed.

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The London Bridge after being relocated to Arizona. Picture taken in 1973. Courtesy of Wikipedia

London Bridge is falling down, falling down….

Many of us have heard that tune since our elementary days. But did you know that although the original London bridge was taken down, that it still exists?

That’s right, you can see it in Arizona of all places. Lake Havasu City, Arizona to be exact.  Robert P. McCulloch purchased the bridge in the 1960’s from the City of London when London decided it needed a larger bridge. He then had it meticulously rebuilt in Arizona.

A bridge that can relocate across an ocean? It must be quite beautiful to accomplish such a feat, as no one would go through the trouble for an ugly bridge.

Beauty Matters

If no one wants a bridge, no matter how well-engineered it may be, or how strong the materials from which it is made, it won’t survive the tests of time. If humanity does not want a bridge, it will be discarded like so many others. Blown up instead of barely saved.  Lost to history instead of painstakingly restored. Dissected instead of carefully relocated.

A bridge cannot be truly strong if it is not also beautiful.

Do you think beauty is as important as the engineering of a bridge? Let me know in the comments below.

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