Have I told you that I love concrete as a material…of course not?
You'd expect me to love wood as the tool of my trade. Well, I LOVE concrete! I love the civil engineers that create with this versatile material.
It seems that driving the streets of New York inspires my loftier thoughts. I have just driven to JFK airport on the Van Wyck Expressway. It is usually a jumble of cars and trucks outmaneuvering each other and jostling for the fastest lane. Today it was a tranquil drive. I had a chance to admire the amazing elevated rail system, AirTrain, that has been installed over the center lane of the highway.
I watched it being built over quite a few the years. A phenomena of engineering. Cast concrete towers rising one by one, (there are 482 of them over an 8 mile stretch), causing barely a disturbance of the traffic on the ground. I wondered how each disparate column would one day be married to each other in a continuous level suitable for a railroad.
Imperceptibly, segment by segment of precast trestles were hoisted off trucks and bolted into place. Until one day…Voila! It was completed and the conductor-less railroads, swish from the Airport to a terminal in Queens. Elevated systems usually hover like low clouds over roadways, blocking sunlight and vistas. Not this one. It rises 00' over the ground and forms a graceful ribbon in the sky.
My infatuation with concrete doesn't stop there. I simply worship Bridges and flyovers! Those high arches that span ten lanes highways or connect huge chasms between rivers and gullies hundreds of feet below. Or the banked ribbons of roadways that divert traffic in myriad directions with graceful sculptured curves interlacing each other. I cannot find enough praise in my vocabulary to laud these Civil Engineers who have created these unsung masterpieces. These are my heroes.
However, there is one
architect whose bridges do not go unheralded. Santiago Calatrava of Spain: His
graceful pedestrian and traffic bridges are the ultimate use of concrete. It is
amazing how he marries utility and grace into one sculptured entity. His
buildings are equally spectacular: from the Eye in Valencia, to the train
station in Lisbon, to his new proposed PATH station at the World Trade
Center. His genius is unending.