Landscape architects can help span the ages with timber bridges.
By Gary W. Cramer
Courtesy Simone Jaffe Collins
Whether the goal is minor revision, middling restoration, or major
re-creation, historic timber bridge projects offer distinct opportunities
for landscape architects to join with engineers in crafting results
that honestly span the past and present.
William Collins, asla, of Simone Jaffe Collins Landscape Architecture in Berwyn,
Pennsylvania, thinks landscape architects should be involved in bridge design
from the beginnings of community-based input to well beyond the design stage.
A member of the Timber Framers Guild who lives near the Delaware River north
of Philadelphiaa region that is rife with working remnants of nineteenth-century
bridge and canal historyCollins has soaked up local engineering and timberworking
lore. He likes to dive into bridge projects early on so he can make aesthetic
decisions that respect the relationship of the bridge to the landscape and
that preserve the original functions of the bridge.
"Bridges are a metaphor for partnerships," Collins says of his firmís involvement
with a variety of historic and heritage bridge commissions. "Thereís an important
distinction I make if Iím working on a bridge project: I want to see the architecture
incorporated into the structure and not just be a facade or a happy face.
Weíve got to avoid using materials without meaning. The materials chosen should
accurately reflect the work being performed." He points out, for instance,
that the historical bridge building practice was to use stone only in the
form of bearing walls, arches, or short lintelsnever in the form of the faux
beams now seen in some suburban bridges that are meant to look older than
they really are.
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