"Since the first log fell across water, people have been fascinated with bridges and their power to bring together what had been separate. Bridges can evoke exhilaration, triumph, and fear, sometimes simultaneously. They figure substantially in the myths, legends, and allegories of many cultures, with each century adding to the strata of symbolism. Consider the associative power of the monumental Brooklyn Bridge, the crossing at Chappaquidick, or a covered bridge across a quiet creek in Vermont.
Bridges span history. They have been built, burned, defended, crossed, and celebrated by kings, queens, monks, revolutionaries, and athletes, as well as by those of us who commute to work each day. Their story has been shaped by the elemental barrier of water and by the cities that grew up along the world's great waterways-imagine Paris, London, New York, or St. Petersburg without their signature bridges. Their sizes and silhouettes reflect the unfolding of mankind's knowledge of technology and building materials, as well as the influence of military conquest, religious belief, and economics.
The earliest primitive bridges, formed from beams, stones, and ropes, evolved into more complex structures fashioned by highly intuitive, often anonymous hands. The Roman domination of the known world was in part attributable to their particular genius for engineering, manifested in their singular masonry arch bridges, many of which still stand today. Lesser known in the West are the exceedingly fine and innovative crossings constructed by the Chinese. Construction methods employed in the sixth-century Anji Bridge in Zhaoxian predate any thing similar in the West by several hundred years. In the medieval world the construction of bridges fell to the religious orders and were funded by the faithful.
The Renaissance saw the rise of the inhabited bridge exemplified by the Ponte Vecchio in Florence and the Rialto Bridge in Venice-and the Palladian bride, which would not gain widespread currency until the eighteenth century, when Palladio's bridge designs were embraced by English landscape designers. The covered bridge, that most romantic of bridge types, is found throughout the world, but was particular popular in a rapidly expanding young America, where wood was plentiful and time was a premium.
The unassuming poetry of bridges reveals itself to those who would see them. Whether a simple crossing or an intricate labyrinth of steel, each of these structures has much to say about the extraordinary lives, effort, ingenuity and wonder that come together on a bridge."