Monday, June 21, 2010

The "Sundial Bridge"

Summer is here my friends.
Today, June 21st marks the first day of the season.

Since winter, each day the sun has been shining just a little bit longer, coming to a crescendo on a day known as the Summer Solstice - the longest day of the year for those of us living north of the equator.

The world has millions of clocks; some are larger than others, but in Redding, California, on this day each year,

there's a bridge that tells time.

Known as the "Sundial Bridge", this seven hundred foot long, cable-stayed span across the Sacramento River was built by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

If that name sounds familiar, it should - I've published posts on another one of his bridges here on the blog.
Search "Calatrava" on the Gondola Blog and you can read about the "Ponte della Costituzione" - Venice's fourth bridge to cross the Grand Canal.

In April of this year I had the opportunity to visit and photograph the Sundial Bridge.
This is a multi-purpose structure; it serves as a bridge all year long, and it also stands as a symbol of art-in-architecture bringing folks from near and far to see it. I saw the bridge some time ago, but it seemed fitting to post these images on this day, the one day of the year it also performs it's timekeeping duty perfectly.

At 210 feet tall, the pylon and markers of the bridge in Redding are said to constitute the largest working sundial in the world.
As long as the sky is clear enough for the mast to cast a shadow, you can observe it in action. Of course you'll have to walk around a bit to observe that shadow as it makes it's way around the lawn of Turtle Bay Exploration Park, the home of the bridge.

The Sundial Bridge is an impressive piece of architecture, but it didn't go up without controversy...and it didn't go up cheaply either.
The original budget for a span of the river there was 3 million dollars. Once the Calatrava name was introduced, the numbers began to climb. Not everyone in the community wanted such a dramatic option for what would only be a bicycle and walking bridge - especially wit a price tag that eventually topped out at $23,500,000.
Like the Venetians, many of the folks in Redding said
"that's an expensive pedestrian bridge".
Like the Ponte della Costituzione, Redding's Calatrava creation incorporates glass into the deck.
And just as it was in Venice, a high priority was placed on spanning the river without disturbing things by sinking supports into the riverbed.

A collection of white-collar residents who believed in the Sundial Bridge continued to support the plan (some willing to put forth funds of their own), and the bridge was completed in 2004, three years later than originally planned.

The results were breathtaking.
The Sundial Bridge is a marvel.
It will take a long time to determine whether or not it was worth the price tag. No matter where you put a Calatrava, people will come to see it. Hopefully this bridge will attract enough visitors to justify the expense.

From some angles, the cantilever tower of the Sundial Bridge reminds one of the mast of a ship or large yacht.
While the cable stays are structural, they almost give the appearance of being solely aesthetic.

Walk around the Sundial Bridge and you're sure to find an angle unusual enough to make anyone reach for their camera.

On most days the Turtle Bay Exploration Park is calm and uncrowded, but I'm sure there are many people there on the 21st of June, to witness firsthand the largest working sundial.

There are no gondolas passing under this Calatrava, but shallow river guide boats are a common sight on this stretch of the Sacramento River.

Rising high above the river, the pylon of Redding's Sundial Bridge can bee seen for miles.

The pylon is artful in it's appearance,
but practical in duty - supporting a bridge that stretches seven hundred feet without disturbing the river.


Standing there and surveying the bridge, I shot a brief video clip as well:
video
So welcome to summer, my friends.
I hope your season is filled with many sunny days and your rowing is enjoyable.

1 comment:

Tamás said...

A very similar bridge, almost a twin of it is found in Spain and the literal inverse of this bidge design, the Harp Bridge is found in Ireland. All created by Calatrava.

Maybe now that it's not possible or at least not practical to compete for the longest/biggest bridge, goverments aim for the most extravagant permanent crossing money can buy?