My second love, buildings, bridges and public spaces

I love many things in this world, my family is obviously first on the list. My second love may come as a surprise to some, unless you read the title. Buildings, bridges, public spaces, I love architectural design, industrial design and well planned neighbourhoods. A beautiful building or bridge is like art soaring into the sky or spanning a body of water, well planned public spaces energise the streets, bring foot traffic to local businesses and inspire families to move into urban areas.

Whenever I have the chance I take pictures of my favourite places using my Smartphone (Sony X12)  and Instagram. I’ve gathered up some of my favourites and wanted to share them with you.

1500 West Georgia, Vancouver.
1500 West Georgia, Vancouver.
Central City Tower, Surrey
Central City Tower, Surrey
Alexandria Bridge, Fraser Canyon near Hell's Gate
Alexandria Bridge, Fraser Canyon near Hell’s Gate
Athletes Village main square, Vancouver
Athletes Village main square, Vancouver
BC Place looking towards Mount Baker, Vancouver
BC Place looking towards Mount Baker, Vancouver
Burrard Street Bridge, Vancouver
Burrard Street Bridge, Vancouver
English Bay and the West End, Vancouver
English Bay and the West End, Vancouver
Georgia Street, Vancouver
Georgia Street, Vancouver
Granville Street Bridge and False Creek
Granville Street Bridge and False Creek
White Rock Pier, White Rock
White Rock Pier, White Rock

 

Granville Island, rust can be beautiful, Vancouver
Granville Island, rust can be beautiful, Vancouver
Granville Street Bridge, Vancouver
Granville Street Bridge, Vancouver
Harbour Centre and Hastings Street, Vancouver
Harbour Centre and Hastings Street, Vancouver
Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, Vancouver
Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, Vancouver
Lonsdale Quay looking across Burrard Inlet, North Vancouver
Lonsdale Quay looking across Burrard Inlet, North Vancouver
Main Street, Whistler Village
Main Street, Whistler Village
Manhattan Apartments at Robson and Thurlow, Vancouver
Manhattan Apartments at Robson and Thurlow, Vancouver
Queensborough with the Alex Fraser Bridge in the distance, New Westminster
Queensborough with the Alex Fraser Bridge in the distance, New Westminster
Robson Square and the Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver
Robson Square and the Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver
Saint Paul's Hospital, Vancouver
Saint Paul’s Hospital, Vancouver
The DTES as seen from the Sun Tower, Vancouver
The DTES as seen from the Sun Tower, Vancouver

 

The Electra, Vancouver
The Electra, Vancouver

 

The Qube, Vancouver
The Qube, Vancouver

 

Tynehead Regional Park, Surrey
Tynehead Regional Park, Surrey

 

Vancouver Public Library main branch, Vancouver
Vancouver Public Library main branch, Vancouver

 

White Rock Beach pier, White Rock
White Rock Beach pier, White Rock

 

 

Grab your smartphone or camera and take some pictures of your favourite places, it’ll make you appreciate the place we call home and you might find something great that you didn’t know was so close to you.

Scott.

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Explaining the design flaw on the new Port Mann Bridge

Today’s afternoon commute was excruciating with every bridge in town feeling the effects of a blast of winter weather. The new $2.46 billion Port Mann Bridge was hit the hardest thanks to a glaring design flaw that saw huge chunks of ice falling from its supporting cables onto the bridge deck, damaging vehicles and injuring motorists. Having just opened a few short weeks ago this is the first hiccup (and a major one at that) in the young bridges life.

Photo - TheProvince.com
Photo – TheProvince.com

The problem comes from the design of the bridge. The main support towers of the cable stayed section are located in the centre of the bridge between the east and westbound lanes. The suspension cables run from these towers to the bridge deck in 4 groups, 2 of which connect to the bridge deck along the inner lanes directly under the towers. The other two groups attach to the outer edges of the bridge crossing over all lanes of vehicle traffic as you can see in the picture above. This means that in winter weather if there’s ice build up on the cables it will almost always fall onto the bridge deck as it starts to melt. A pretty major design flaw in a part of the world that experiences winter weather.

Photo - Panaramio.com
Photo – Panaramio.com

There are other cable stayed (suspension) bridges in the Lower Mainland and they are also susceptible to cable icing and this has resulted in ice falling onto their bridge decks but they all have a design that makes it a very rare occurrence. In the  photo of the Alex Fraser bridge at the top of this paragraph you can see that the cables go from outer towers straight down to the sides of the bridge never crossing any lanes of traffic. The Golden Ears bridge and Pitt River Bridge have a similar design. The Pattullo and old Port Mann bridge are steel arch truss bridges which means their supporting structures are significantly lower so any ice fall would be at a much lower velocity. Their arched design also provides a gentle slope for ice and water to run off of during ice melt.

I’m not an engineer, I’m a bridge and architecture enthusiast and as such the design flaw of the new Port Mann didn’t occur to me until ice was crushing peoples windshields today. That being said there are some very well paid, highly educated people who designed this bridge who missed this problem completely. It’s not as bad as the Tacoma Narrows bridge design flaw (see video below) but it is one that will rear its ugly head whenever the weather turns cold and icy.

What can be done about it? That’s a good question. Heating the cables will undoubtedly shorten their lifespan but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that idea released to the public in an effort to calm peoples nerves and this option was dismissed by the designers due to cost. The best answer to that question is one that is never going to happen. The bridge should’ve been designed for ice build up, it wasn’t, it’s too late to change it. I guess someone should’ve told Kiewit Corporation, based in Omaha, Nebraska (which gets winter weather) that it can get cold here on the west coast.

Scott.