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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Calatrava - sculptor, architect, engineer?, 2 Jan. 2007
This review is from: Calatrava Bridges (Architecture/Design Series) (Paperback)
Calatrava is perhaps the best-known structural engineer in the world, and it's as much for his bridges as any of his other work. This can only be a good thing for a public who would otherwise think that bridge engineers stopped at Brunel (or Eiffel, or Roebling, depending on your country of origin).

Despite his work's public popularity, Calatrava is frequently criticised within the engineering community. Matthew Wells in "30 Bridges" describes how many of Calatrava's bridges are "rather like a cake on a cake-stand", with some of them "overblown". What engineers so dislike is that Calatrava abandons the discipline of economy in favour of the irrational and the exuberant - bridges which succeed primarily as sculptures rather than as rational structures.

Alexander Tzonis has written extensively on Calatrava but unfortunately lacks a critical eye. The dozens of bridges included in this book are all described positively, although some are downright ugly (e.g. the fortunately unbuilt Serreria Bridge) and others interesting but seriously flawed (e.g. California's Sundial Bridge). His text is often unclear, frequently failing to distinguish between bridges that were built and others that never got beyond the model-making stage, and it's often obvious that English is his second language.

That said, I still found the book consistently fascinating, and it's well-illustrated. The initial chapter on his Alpine bridge designs (all very different from the high-tech steelwork of his better-known work) is very welcome, and there are plenty of structures which I hadn't previously encountered. As a bridge designer, there are several ideas to follow up, and it's unsurprising that Calatrava has inspired many imitators.

In summary, Calatrava fans will love this book. Others with a keen interest in bridge design will also find plenty to admire (or react against), but may wish it was somewhat less of a hagiography.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 26 Aug 2008 20:21:04 BDT
very good review indeed. just a note - serreria bridge is now under construction, and in my opinion is looking promising. a fine addition the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia - see pic http://www.flickr.com/photos/jodyodea/2800073873/
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