A straight and simple review

This is my attempt in trying to review things that seem to get a lot of attention - especially in the engineering world. Not necessarily bad reviews, more like constructive criticism. I provide reasons why I make the claims and make equivocal arguments. I typically pick topics that I have a background in, or have gathered a lot of information. 2 articles a week is my goal - will keep it that way .

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Bridging the gap

S'il vous plaît

OK - no one I know of, is a fan of France. I love Wines and French Vanilla, but those are the TOP French products. In the world of engineering, we might think of 2 achievements – The Airbus (which is a conglomerate with UK) and Renault – which is an awesome car company. I guess, there is something that I over looked in this country.


Millau is a town in Southern France – not famous for anything. It has an insect museum and a glove museum (really) , and then there is paragliding. Although, it is famous for traffic jams. Near Millau , there is this lovely valley and all automobiles have to go down this valley and come back up to travel to Millau. To avoid that, the government built this bridge. More over, this valley is a preserved area or something – which means the govt. is happy to build a bridge to divert the traffic.


Viaduct is I think French (or European – they use it everywhere) for a channel or a tunnel through a valley. This is somewhat a flawed usage – they tried to make it resemble aquaduct – which is a common expression for water tunnel. This is the highest bridge in the world and definitely a piece of wonder. It is a smart bridge – raises and dips up to 10 meters depending on the weather. It took I think about 4-5 years to build it – which is fast. Click on this link http://mywebsite.bigpond.com/johndeutscher/Ian/Photos/Millau_Bridge/

to see photos of different construction stages (a must see for engineers) . I am going to skip the technical mumbo jumbo. Its taller than the Eiffel Tower and about 4 kms long I think – that’s all the numbers. The pictures explain the construction better than I can. Its called a cable-stayed bridge- as opposed to a suspension bridge.

Bridging a generation gap

We all know bridges are wonderful engineering. The truth is, we haven’t seen a brilliant bridge in a long time. Most bridges we know of, are many years old – London, San Francisco Golden Gate etc. I mean, they have always been there, they are nice but nothing ‘break-through’ about them.

The Millau Viaduct is about a year old now – its truly a new bridge. It makes use of modern technology and innovative methods. Everything from the concrete used, to the cranes you see in the picture in the link are things that didn’t exist 10 years ago. More over, this bridge is a piece of architecture – not just engineering. There was a British architect who designed it – and the engineers enforced it. Look at the shape in the top view. Also, the rise and dip principle is a new concept (Also being used in Japan).

I think this bridge has truly bridge a gap in the generations of technology and engineering. There are not too many bridges that can boast this true wonder (Oresund can – will write about that in a later blog). More over, what makes this truly remarkable is the fact that it was constructed in a valley in almost no where. It didn’t link big cities or popular tourist destinations. The French govt. was surprisingly sensible enough to approve such a project in such a remote place, just so that they can have a super structure. They could have made it much low lying with RSJs; used suspension cables or utilize struts – but no. They actually pulled off a huge cable stayed bridge. They collect I think about 10 Euros as toll and reduced for frequent usage – but if this was some where near Toulouse or Paris, I am sure they would make much much more money,

So I guess, more than the world-record height; the 100-year warranty; minimum maintenance design; the real achievement here is the investments in a modern engineering wonder. It reaffirms strength in engineering – rather than computers and software and spacecrafts….and most surprisingly , it has been developed in the middle of no where in France. A lot of things suck in France, but NOT THAT 1.

(Photo Credit : http://viaduc.midilibre.com/)


Blogger BATMAN^V^EXILED said...

Liked the way u ended the entry. pretty insightful. Makes one wonder whether India would be open minded towards engineering projects like these in the near future.

3:40 AM  
Anonymous Willie said...

jus wondering how much it cost them, i guess its not a "net present value>0" project! wud truly be a gr8 drive, ne insights on how its been made smart depending on weather? materials??

6:25 PM  
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