04 February 2017

Deux livres sur les passerelles à Paris

I'll conclude my series of posts on the bridges of Paris with mentions for a couple more relevant books.

"Passerelle Simone-de-Beauvour, Paris" (Archives d'Achitecture Moderne, 128pp, 2006) is written by Armelle Lavalou, Francoise Lamarre and Jean-Paul Robert, and credited to the bridge's architect, Feichtinger Architectes.

It's a well-illustrated volume with text in both English and French throughout. It's filled with images of the completed bridge as well as its construction, but sadly the book is not large, measuring only 24cm by 16cm, which leaves some of the imagery and diagrams a little small.

The bridge is explained both in terms of its architecture and its engineering, although the explanation of the engineering is aimed squarely at non-technical readers: I was left with plenty of questions. A number of somewhat diagrammatic drawings are included, which are very interesting but without dimensions and again missing some of the details that would better explain how the bridge works.

There are some lovely pictures of competition-stage physical models and design-stage wind-tunnel test, which I'd like to have seen reproduced at much larger size. For me, the best section covers the construction of the bridge, including its static and dynamic load testing.

The book acknowledges the participation of RFR, the structural engineers, without giving them detailed credit, very much giving the impression that they were the subsidiary partner. I don't know whether this is a fair reflection or not.

Overall, it's an essential book for anyone wanting to learn more about this spectacular bridge, but it could have been much better.

"Passerelle Solferino Paris / Solferino Bridge Paris" (Birkhauser, 128pp, 2001) by Francoise Fromonot has the same page count but a larger format (30cm by 23cm). It is also well-illustrated, with shared French and English text. I didn't visit this bridge during my recent trip to Paris, but I thought it was worth featuring the book here anyway.

The core of the book has less text, giving more space to images of the design competition, the bridge under construction, and the completed span. The larger format works well for these.

The key attraction, for me at least, is the inclusion of a lengthy section covering the engineering design and construction issues, which gives extensive and numerical detail on key points such as foundation loads, vibration modes, steel grades etc. While I'm sure this is of limited interest to some readers, it opens up the opportunity for specialists to much better understand the merits of the design.

The book also features a number of detailed design drawings, which are fascinating because of the bridge's extensive geometric complexity. Indeed, perhaps the only thing missing here is a more critical voice, as this is a bridge which was criticised from several quarters, both for the complexity of its fabrication as well as its dynamic behaviour and initial lack of slip resistance.

Nonetheless, it's a thorough and well-presented book, and I can recommend it to anyone interested in this bridge.

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