03 October 2008

Stumbling Over the Bridge

An interesting article on the new Constitution Bridge over the Grand Canal in Venice from the Guardian.

Interesting because it shows what happen with aesthetics clash with simple usability (though I confess that in a situation like this I might opt for the aesthetics too).

Interesting in that is looks to be inspired by, or is at least evocative of, the Kintaikyo (錦帯橋) Bridge in Iwakuni (岩国) Japan (see also, Wikipedia entry). It's one of those must see destinations your friends in Japan drag you off to when you leave it up to them to decide where to explore.

The Kintaikyo Bridge shares the a comparable flaw, perhaps inevitable in an arched bridge of this style. It has relatively level top forming a short, shallow arc. This end, on either side, with steps of variable heights as the bridge becomes to steep for the level surface. And, it is also in a scenic location where it is far to easy to be watching the scenery and not your feet. Result, as you head back down the slope, you step off into space at the first step, oblivious to what your feet are doing.

Having done just that, I know.

And the complaint about the Constitution bridge? People twisting their ankles because they were too busy admiring the scenery to attend to their feet.

On the other hand, the Kintaikyo Bridge is a restoration of an older bridge on that site from 1673. At the time it was meant to balance functionality with elegance, providing the bridge between the town and the Shogun's estate. So perhaps it has better excuse to be difficult than a modernist piece of glass and steel designed specifically for the flow of tourists.

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