One of the topics I’m excited to write about in the Red+Company Blog is Switzerland’s impressive contribution over the last hundred plus years to modern art, design, and engineering. For such a small country the talent and work it has produced is striking.
I’ll start with a brief post on Robert Maillart, a civil engineer whose groundbreaking work in the 1920s and 1930s with reinforced concrete drew the attention of such Swiss artists as Max Bill and in 1947 landed him an exhibit at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. In his gorgeous Salginatobel bridge Maillart melded an engineer’s concept of efficiency with an artistic vision of elegance. Commissioned by a tiny alpine community to provide year-round access to the local valley, the innovative bridge exemplified modernism’s goals of honesty in design, use of modern materials, and the avoidance of ornamentation. But one of the things I particularly love about the Salginatobel bridge is that — in contrast to today’s trend of cities hiring superstar architects and engineers to build expensive and dramatic showcase structures — Maillart’s bridge design was primarily selected not on it’s artistic or engineering merits, but because his bid was the least expensive of 19 submitted.
The Salginatobel bridge has become something of a destination for architects, engineers, and artists alike and in 1990 was designated an “International Civil Engineering Landmark”, putting it in the same select class of engineering wonders as the Eiffel Tower, the Hoover Dam, and the Brooklyn Bridge. The British trade journal Bridge Design & Engineering even voted it the most beautiful bridge of the century.
You can read more about the Salginatobel bridge here.