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The Art of Structural Engineering: Bridges


About this course

In this engineering course you will learn how to analyze bridges from three perspectives:

1. Efficiency = calculations of forces/stresses

2. Economy = evaluation of societal context and cost

3. Elegance = form/appearance based on engineering principles, not decoration

With a focus on some significant bridges built since the industrial revolution, the course illustrates how engineering is a creative discipline and can become an art. We also show the influence of the economic and social context in bridge design and the interplay between forces and form.

This is the first of three courses on the Art of Structural Engineering, each of which are independent of the other. The two other courses will be on tall buildings/towers and vaults.

No certificates, statements of accomplishment, or other credentials will be awarded in connection with this course.

What you’ll learn

How to solve for the efficiency of structures using the appropriate formulas

How to evaluate a structure within the measures of structural art

How economic, social, and cultural influences the structural design

How to analyze bridge forms: suspension, beams, pre-stressed, arch, cable-stayed, tied-arch

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Week 1: Introduction to Structural Art
Week 2: The Origins of Structural Art: British Metal Forms
Week 3: John Roebling and the Brooklyn Bridge
Week 4: Othmar Ammann and (some of) his Bridges of NYC
Week 5: The Golden Gate Bridge
Week 6: Robert Maillart and Reinforced Concrete Bridges
Week 7: Origins of Prestressing: Freyssinet, Magnel, and Finsterwalder
Week 8: New Bridge Forms: Christian Menn
Week 9: The Politics and Art of Spanish Bridge Design



Learn about bridge design and discover how structural engineering is a creative discipline and art form.

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