Why bridges should be more than functional

  • Why bridges should be more than functional

Booster Blog

Why bridges should be more than functional

When you consider a bridge, you’ll probably think about the functional, practical perspective. After all, bridges are here to connect point A to point B, right? Well, yes. But is that all they are? Or is only considering function missing an important detail in bridge design?

According to Ian Firth, yes.

For over 38 years, Ian has been a structural engineer who has made his name in the design, assessment and structural investigation of bridges and other structures. In his own words:

"Through my work with COWI (previously Flint & Neill), and in collaboration with many architects and other design professionals, I have been fortunate to work on the structural design of several notable bridges and structures in the UK and internationally."

Ian also is a regular speaker on bridge design at several university and has also spoken on bridge design during his TED 2018 speech.

It was during this presentation where he set out his clear vision that a bridge is more than a functional object. It is an object which should deliver lasting value and delight.

Ian is clear that, whilst a bridge is a transport link, they speak to much more than that. They express human ingenuity and creativity as well as creating a community. So, whilst they do enable populations to get from A to B, they also provide access to much more. 

They have a huge and lasting impact for those who live around them, giving access to commerce, health care and education through which a population may develop.

The design of a bridge can also be a focal point of local and international identity. Who can consider San Francisco without remembering the Golden Gate bridge? Or think about Sydney without the Sydney Harbour bridge coming to mind? The loss of a bridge can be devastating to the identity of a community, with even more impact than the loss of transport connections.

During the presentation, Ian points out that a bridge lasts a long time. Hundreds of years. During that time costs and delays in construction are forgotten, but poor design? That’s a sin which will show and be on display every day.


At Bolidt, we understand this and that’s why the Bolidtop range includes an extensive range of design options to make your project durable and beautiful. Our Research teams spend a long time making sure that the range will accent the design of your project, not ruin it.

We’ll leave the last word on why design matters to Ian, just remember this when designing your next project:

“Bridges -- beauty enriches life. Doesn't it? It enhances our well-being. Ugliness and mediocrity do exactly the opposite. And if we go on building mediocre, ugly environments -- and I believe we're becoming numb to that stuff -- if we go on doing that, it's something like a large-scale vandalism, which is completely unacceptable.”

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