15 March 2011

[pdx] Singing The Praises Of My Beloved Marquam Bridge, and Appropriate Design.

2583.Quality is not always pretty, and pretty, strictly speaking, is not necessarily beautiful. Or sexy.

I adore the Marquam Bridge. This spare, bare, purpose-built bridge has had a lot of dirt thrown at it by dilettantish types who insist on thinking that the word beautiful is the same as beautious. It ain't so, my friends. Never has been.

You ever hear, and really think about about the meaning of the oft-tossed-off aphorism beauty is in the eye of the beholder ?. I'm sure a lot of people just toss it out into verbal play without really thinking about what they were saying. Well, my friends, this, to me, is beautiful:

The Marquam Bridge

Yep, it's the Marquam Bridge.

Its beauty is in its plainness, it's engineered appearance, its internal character. This is the bridge that was called the "Erector Set" Bridge when it was put up, the one that the Portland Arts Commission lodged a protest against due to its "ugliness". But now, it's part of the warp and weft of the city's physical fabric, and it has one of the most stunning views of downtown there can be had - sadly, you can't pull over to take it in, but nothing's perfect. Maybe in the future somehow.

Moreover, the bridge is beautiful in strength - it's strength is part of its beauty. As witness this report from KGW TV, in which concern for our own possible future subduction zone event has been sharpened in the wake of the tragedy in Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, which tells us that our plain-jane, no-arches, ugly-duckling Marquam Bridge will most likely be the only river crossing in Bridgedown left standing or usable when The Cascadian Big One hits.

They may insult you, girl … but I knew you always had it in you.

Picture Source


Isaac Laquedem said...

You've said something that I've felt for years. I think the Marquam Bridge is ugly - from the inside. Because it's a freeway and not a city street I pass over the level stretch too quickly, without the sense that I'm traveling along a bridge. It's up, then down.

But from the outside -- seen from a distance, as in your photograph, it's always struck me as graceful, a straightforward and well-proportioned box. From afar it's the ramps that are ugly, not the truss.


Scott said...

I couldn't agree more. It is by far my favorite bridge in Portland.