How to Read Bridges

A Crash Course in Engineering and Architecture

By Edward Denison and Ian Stewart

I must preface my review of How To Read Bridges by confessing that I am a Bridge Engineer who “reads” bridges every day. I was intrigued when afforded the opportunity to review this book, which summarizes the introductory aspects of bridge engineering… and is written for readers with various types of backgrounds.

Overall, the pocket-sized paperback book is 250+ pages of informative text, full of interesting historic and contemporary photographs, and sketches of representative bridges worldwide. In addition, there is a Glossary of engineering terms, as well as Resources of books and web sites.

The book is divided into two sections – Part I: Understanding Bridges, and Part II: Case Studies. The first part introduces bridge materials (stone, wood, organic, brick, iron, steel, concrete and glass); bridge types (beam, arch, truss, moving, cantilever, suspension, cable-stayed and hybrid); bridge uses (pedestrian, water, vehicular, rail and military); and illustrious bridge engineers (Isambard Kingdom Brunel, John A. Roebling, Robert Maillart, Santiago Calatrava, Gustave Eiffel, and Benjamin Baker).

The remaining 60% of the book is devoted to representative global case studies of the following bridge types: Beam Bridges (6), Arch Bridges (13), Truss Bridges (8), Opening & Moving Bridges (10), Cantilever Bridges (7), Suspension Bridges (13) and Cable-Stayed Bridges (9). Each case study includes a brief introduction describing the inherent design features of the specific bridge type, followed by several example bridges (numbers in parentheses) that include an historic summary, color photograph(s), and descriptive sketches detailing salient aspects of the bridge.

The book provides a good overview of bridge engineering from an historic perspective, highlighted by iconic structures from around the world. One minor inaccuracy and isolated nomenclature issues were noted by this reviewer; however, neither detracts from the content.

Overall, I enjoyed How To Read Bridges and I am glad to add it to my library of bridge books.

Reviewed By Brian J. Leshko, P.E.

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