Venice: City of Bridges- Guest Column

There are two different types of historic bridges: One that stands out in terms of its design and history and one that integrates itself in a setting, where if visited, one can experience the culture that both the bridge and the area surrounding it offer. One cannot modernize with a new crossing without understanding the implications they have with the neighborhood or landscape. And this is where this guest column comes about.

I happened to stumble across this column by accident and wished I hadn’t for I have yet to visit Italy and explore some of the finest bridges in the country. Italy is home to thousands of crossings dating as far back as the Roman Empire. This include some of the bridges that were built before and rebuilt after the fall of the Empire, including some by King Theoderich (see my article on this topic), such as the aqueducts in Rome (as described in another article here.) Then there are the bridges serving the waters of Florence……

….and this city, Venice.

Home to over 2.5 million inhabitants (with 260,000 living directly in the city center), the city is home to over 430 bridges, including two of the most famous landmarks of the city: The Ponte di Rialto and the Bridge of Sighs. Both of these bridges, dating back to the late 1500s, are part of the majority that can be easily reached by boat or gondola. A guide to the highly recommended bridges to visit in Venice can be accessed by link here.

Yet this guest column written by a columnist who focuses on life in cities and sunsets, puts together Venice’s historic bridges with the colorful faces that the city has to offer. It is a long column about her adventures through the city, and her impressions lead to readers like this one to add this city to the places to visit and bridgehunt- very high up in the Top 3. To look at Venice’s bridges, have a look at the summary below and click to read to the end. When done, you will not regret it like I didn’t but more like provide an incentive to go there and have a look. Enjoy! 🙂

The city of bridges, as it is fondly known, is everything you would imagine it to be. It has a surreal feeling when there, living up to all of its stereotypical features; pretty bridges over winding canals, narrow paths nestled between old tall brick buildings, gondolas and motor boats carrying fruit and vegetables, singing gondoliers […]

via VENICE – CITY OF BRIDGES — LIFE I WANT TO LEAD

 

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2014 Ammann Awards: The Long-Awaited Results

Green Bridge in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo taken by Mitch Nicholson

Before announcing the winners, the author would like to apologize for the delay of the announcement of the winners. The reasons were twofold: 1. While returning home to Germany after spending Christmas with family in the US, he and his family were sick thanks to the flu bug that swept through many parts of the country. Many voters also requested a grace period for that reason plus more time needed to decide on their candidates.  2. In many categories, we had at least three ties for first place resulting in the need to extend the deadline. For that, the extension served as a blessing for many.

Now for the moment of truth. For the first time, the Chronicles, in connection with Forum Communications in Fargo, used the Poll Daddy voting scheme, which turned out to be the most effective way to vote. Thanks to Kari Lucin for her help, it will be used again for the 2015 Awards, which will take place in December. More information under the Ammann Awards page.

The votes were tallied with the top three being announced here. However, a link with the complete list of candidates for the 2014 Awards can be found here.

Without further ado, the winners:

Best Photo:

USA

Located over the Raccoon River in Des Moines, the Green Bridge has been in the news for over a year because of a public-private project to remodel the structure. It has been mentioned for many awards and grants. This photo by Mitch Nicholson, who is the author of Abandoned Iowa (website can be found here), will add to the accolades the bridge has already received, with the hope of garnering more support and funding for restoring the bridge by 2017. The Green Bridge won the award by collecting 31 votes (or 41%), beating out the Split Rock Bridge in Pipestone County (15 votes or 20%) and a drone photo of the BB Comer Bridge in Alabama (7 votes or 9%)

FINAL RESULTS.

1. Green Bridge in Des Moines, Iowa (by Mitch Nicholson)  31 votes (41%)

2. Split Rock Bridge near Pipestone, Minnesota (by Sebastian Renfield)  15 votes (20%)

3. BB Comer Bridge in Jackson County, Alabama (by David Kammerer)  7 votes (9%)

Forth Railroad Bridge in Scotland. Photo taken by Mark Watson

International

Mark Watson, an engineer based in Scotland, is an expert in bridges in his region and found some unique angles of two of the bridges for this awards- the Firth of Forth Railroad Bridge and the Forth Roadway Bridge. The former is slated to become a UNESCO World Hertiage Site this year, while the latter turned 50 last year. Both bridges won gold and silver respectively, with the latter sharing the silver metal with a photo of another unique bridge in neighboring England, the Clifton Suspension Bridge (taken by Laura Hilton). Here are the final results:

1. Firth of Forth Railway Bridge- 6 votes (33%)

T2. Forth Suspension Bridge and Clifton Suspension Bridge- 4 votes (22%)

T3. Monks Bridge at Isle of Man (Liz Boakes) and Millau Viaduct in France (Jet Lowe)-               2 votes (11%)

 

Lifetime Achievement:

This year’s category features five candidates as well as three post humus, the latter of which will be featured in separate articles coming out in the Chronicles. Two of the candidates come from Generation X (born between 1970- 1985) but have vast experience with developing their database on historic bridges in the United States- namely, James Baughn of Bridgehunter.com and Nathan Holth of HistoricBridges.org. Yet experience always trumps youth, as seen with the winner of this award, Jet Lowe. For over 30 years, Mr. Lowe has been the eye of bridge photography for the National Park Service (and more so with the Historic American Engineering Record), photographing bridges big and small. Because of his expertise, this year’s Lifetime Achievement goes to him. The Chronciles has contacted him for a 1 to 1 interview and will post the results soon, once it is finished.

FINAL RESULTS:

1. Jet Lowe   10

2. James Baughn 6

3. Nathan Holth  5

4. Nels Raynor  3

 

Mystery Bridge:

This category had perhaps the highest number of entries but the lowest number of votes. Nevertheless, the winners were found in both the USA and International subcategories. For the USA, the Fink Truss Bridge in San Antonio, the work of a German local, barely got the prize, beating out the Saylorville Bridges in Iowa and the Silent Shade Bridge in Mississippi by only one vote, as well as an abandoned truss bridge in Minnesota by two. In the International part, Theoderich the Great received his Lifetime Legacy Award post humus, albeit 1500 years late, as his Rome aqueducts shared first place with a bowstring arch bridge in Japan, whereas the Ravenna aqueducts finished second. Despite the plea for more information on the age of the structure, the Drew Bridge, originally from Brazil but now residing in Florida, finished third.

FINAL RESULTS:

USA

1. Fink Truss Bridge in Texas (40%)

T2. Saylorville Lake Bridges (20%)

Silent Shade Bridge

3. Queenpost Bridge in Jackson Co., MN (17%)

INTERNATIONAL

T 1. Aqueducts of Rome and  Bowstring Arch Bridge in Japan  (38%)

2. Ravenna Aqueduct (15%)

3. Drew Bridge (8%)

 

More results to follow in part II……..

 

Mystery Bridge Nr. 38: The Aqueducts of Rome

Aqua Alexandrina in Rome. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Aqua_Alexandrina_02.jpg

If one ties this article in with the Mystery Bridge article about the aqueduct in Ravenna, Italy, then one should consider this part II in the search for information and answers to the role of Theoderich the Great in restoring the architecture and infrastructure during his regime. As mentioned briefly in the article about the Ravenna Aqueduct, the Ostrogoth leader defeated and later murdered Odoacre in 493 to become the second king of Italy. His predecessor had established the Italian kingdom after dethroning the last emperor of the Western Roman Empire, Romulus Augustus, son of Orestes, in 476 and held power until his death, but not before having a tumultuous last four years through war with the Ostrogoth. Theoderich ruled until his death in 526, and left a legacy that is disputable in the books. Architecturally, he spearheaded the construction of basilicas and other monuments- mostly in Ravenna, but also in other cities, like Rome and Verona.

Yet, as we saw in the article about Ravenna, he also led efforts to restoring the infrastructure- in particular, aqueducts. The question is: apart from the Ravenna aqueduct, what other aqueducts did he build?

Let’s look at the ones in Rome, for instance. Situated on the Tiber River, the present-day Italian capital once had a central network of aqueducts, which channeled water into and around the walled city from the Mediterranean Sea. 11 of them totaling over 320 kilometers were constructed between 312 BC with the Aqua Appia and 226 AD  with the Aqua Alexandrina (as shown in the picture above). Restoration of the viaducts started in the third century AD to improve the flow of water into Rome, but was interrupted with the invasion of the Germanic Tribes beginning in the 4th Century, at the time of the partition of the Roman Empire into East and West in 395. As they did throughout the region, the invaders destroyed the aqueducts and other forms of infrastructure until the Western Empire ceased to exist in 476.

Restoration did not start again until Theoderich the Great took power. Like in the times before 476, the infrastructure was the responsibility of the local governments and private residents, for the Italian kingdom was in a transition phase and did not have enough money available to reestablish itself and its institutions. Theoderich was very conservative in his plans to rebuild the infrastructure and chose the most important areas first for development: namely, Ravenna and Rome, but also in Verona and other smaller cities. While Ravenna was very important for him, and it was important to supply clean water to a city surrounded by marshland, his focus was also on restoring the aqueducts in Rome. While he had provided support to the local government to rebuild the aqueducts, he hastened the process in ca. 509 due to political corruption and other delays.

Many sources, written between 1980 and 1995 have not mentioned much about which aqueducts were restored during Theoderich’s era, and some even credited Belisarius for restoring key aqueducts after he captured Rome in 538, 12 years after Theoderich’s death. This was part of the plan of East Roman emperor Justinian to drive the Ostrogoths away from Italy and recapture parts of the lost land of the Roman Empire. Yet more information has come to light as to how the Ostrogoth restored the aqueducts during his 33-year reign over Italy, and therefore, as part of the project on the restoration of the infrastructure in Italy during Theoderich’s regime, the question is:

Which aqueducts in Rome were restored during Theoderich’s regime and who engineered these restoration efforts?

What other forms of infrastructure (not just aqueducts but also roads, bridges and canals) did Theoderich oversee in restoring for reuse for the population living in Italy?

Place your comments here or send the info via e-mail to the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. Other contact info can be found in the article on Ravenna’s aqueduct, where some information  is being sough about this one as well. You can click here to view the article. Any articles and leads on the infrastructure in Rome and Italy during Theoderich’s regime will be most helpful in completing this project.

 

 

The Oldest Bridge Book

Question for the Forum:

Here is an interesting question for you readers to start off with:

What was the oldest known bridge book you have ever read? When was it written and what was the title?

Do you know about a bridge book that is the oldest ever written?

There is an explanation that warrants this question for discussion:

I’ve been quite busy with my latest bridge project I’m doing for a history professor at the University in Jena, Germany on Roman Aqueducts, focusing on the reconstruction of the ones in Italy after Theoderich the Great took power in 493 AD. Going through the sources to find enough information can be a chore, as a there are a few books about this topic, not to mention some of the inscriptions in Latin that had to be deciphered into English to determine when the aqueducts were built, let alone rebuilt upon orders of the Goth. As I was going through the work, I happened to find a book on Roman Aqueducts, located right in the library at the University!

The author of the book is Esther van Deman and the title: “The Building of Roman Aqueducts” It featured nine examples of aqueducts that were built between 20 BC and 250 AD, with four of them being rebuilt after 476 AD, when the Western Roman Empire ceased to exist with Odoacre taking power in Italy. It also featured the art of constructing them, using various materials ordered by the emperors, beginning with Augustus, and designing them using the stone or brick arches that were engineered by the Roman builders with the goal of bringing water to the region. After all, the Romans needed water for all sorts of purposes, including the public baths in many cities, irrigation, plumbing, and even drinking.

But when was this book published?  1984?  1977?   1966?

1934!!!!

The Carnegie Institute of Washington, DC published this work, which contained information and photos eighty years ago! This meant that with the exception of bridge examples presented by the bridge companies, like King, Wrought Iron Bridge, Clinton, or even the ones in Canton, Ohio or Pittsburgh, bridge books were being produced at least eighty years ago, with photos and all. But was this book the oldest ever published?

Doubtful!   My assumption was the book on the Great American Bridges by Donald Jackson was the oldest one ever written about (historic) bridges, being published in 1984- fifty years later. Yet I also discovered a couple more books written a year later about bridges in Pennsylvania and Australia. Yet if my assumptions are wrong by sixty years, then this means that there were many books- ancient ones- that had existed before that.

So let’s start with the forum by answering the questions I brought forward at the beginning: the oldest book you have written and the oldest known book that exists about bridges. Place your comments here or through the social network pages bearing the Chronicles’ name, with hopes that other stories will come to light.

As I’m on the same page regarding Roman Aqueducts……

 

Mystery Bridge Nr. 36: The Ravenna Aqueduct in Italy

The Aqueduct of Segovia in Spain. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Segovia_Aqueduct.JPG

The next mystery bridge article is in connection with a project the author is doing for a university in eastern Germany- namely one involving a rather antique bridge type known as the aqueduct.  As you can see in the picture above, aqueducts date back to ancient times, first used by the ancient Greeks and Etruscans but later expanded by the Romans during their time in power, beginning in the second century BC. Tens of thousands of kilometers of aqueducts were constructed by 195 AD, the time when the Roman Empire was at its peak in size and power, with 11 of them totaling over 300 kilometers built in the city of Rome itself.

Aqueducts themselves are viaducts that feature multiple stories of arches but whose top row of arches transport water to the cities on land. In general, water extracted from a larger body of water- in the case of the Roman Empire, the Mediterranean Sea, with some smaller aqueducts being used to connect the major ones in Germany, France and England- and is transported through a series of canals and arch viaducts, making a gradual decline going inland. Most of these aqueducts were built using bricks and/or stone, while the pipes and troughs used to transport water were first built using lead, yet ceramics and clay were later used due to concerns of lead poisoning and water-borne diseases that affected the Roman population.  Many of these aqueducts were destroyed by Germanic tribes, Vandals and Franconians when the Empire crumbled bit by bit after it was split into two in 395 AD. Others were left in disarray. Yet there were some aqueducts that were restored by the Visogoths and Ostrogoths after the Western Roman Empire ceased to exist with the overthrow of Romulus, son of Orestes, by Odoacre in 476 AD.

The Ravenna Aqueduct was one of the surviving Roman aqueducts that was restored after 476 AD. It was first built by Emperor Trajan in the second century (before his death in 117 AD) connecting Ravenna with the port of Classe, located northeast of the city on the Adriatic Sea. Little was known about the aqueduct except it was approximately 20 kilometers long, with another branch being built later that was 70 kilometers. According to Deborah Deliyannis in her book, Ravenna in Late Antiquity, the aqueduct was out of service by 460, with portions destroyed during the conquest of Italy by Theoderich the Great, where he besieged Ravenna between 490 and the time he murdered Odoacre and took over the Italian kingdom in 493. It was then that he ordered all aqueducts to be restored, including this key connection between Ravenna and Classe. Reason for that was simple: he wanted to restore the water system to Ravenna to enable people to use it for drinking, irrigation and bathing.  The restoration was confirmed with the excavation of lead pipes that were part of the aqueduct in 1938. The restoration of the aqueduct was one of many architectural achievements that belonged to Theoderich during his regime of the Ostrogoth and later the Visigoth kingdoms before his death in 526.

Yet the question is what the aqueduct looked like during its existence and how it went from the port at Classe to Ravenna, for the path of the aqueduct remains disputed. We do know that Theoderich’s regime was similar to that of Alexander the Great, when he conquered Greece and the Persian kingdom in 323 BC, but allowed the civilizations to thrive. Theoderich’s tolerance over the civilizations based on religious and cultural backgrounds was legend during his time, and his initiative to rebuild Italy’s infrastructure and architectural landscape showed his willingness to allow the people to have a better life than before his conquest. The Ravenna aqueduct was one of those works of art that can reportedly be seen in Ravenna. The question is where the rest of the aqueduct was built and if some of the remnants outside Ravenna can be seen today.

If you have any historical information and findings to date, as well as photos and sketches of the Ravenna Aqueduct, regardless of what language, please use the following channels and contact the Chronicles:

Send your photos and sketches, as well as inquiries to Jason Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com

You can place your information about Ravenna’s aqueduct, Trajan’s architectural work or Theoderich’s restoration in the comment section of this article.

Another source where you can send the information is Dr. Udo Hartmann of the Institute of Antiquity at the University of Jena in Germany, who teaches ancient history and has been teaching about Theoderich the Great this semester (Winter Semester 2013/14) and is overseeing the project the author is doing. His e-mail address is: udo.hartmann@uni-jena.de

As soon as the pieces of the aqueduct’s history are put together and the project is completed, an update in abbreviated form will be presented in the Chronicles. Your help would be much appreciated in this matter. Many thanks for your help.

Information on Ravenna, the aqueduct, Trajan and Theoderich the Great can be found by clicking on the following links below:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trajan

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classe,_ancient_port_of_Ravenna#cite_note-11

Ravenna in Late Antiquity and the Restoration of the Aqueduct

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ravenna

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theoderic_the_Great