After 25 years as a boilermaker, shipfitter and welder, photographer Joseph Blum knows his way around construction sites. His remarkable photographs take us behind-the-scenes on the construction of the new eastern span of San Francisco’s bay bridge, and are on view at the San Francisco Arts Commission gallery through September.
This is no ordinary construction site — the bridge is the largest self-anchored suspension bridge (SAS) in the world, and it connects the East Bay with San Francisco. Footed in mud strata, with giant shock absorbing fuses embedded underneath the roadway, the bridge is designed to be a seismic neutralizer and provide a lifeline into San Francisco for emergency services even when the surrounding area is flattened. It’s also supposed to last for 150 years.
It better. The price tag stands at $6.3 billion, orders of magnitude above initial projections, and the final cost to taxpayers could surpass $12 billion when all is said and done. That dollar figure includes manufacturing giant portions of the bridge in China and transporting them by boat (though this was the less expensive option), not to mention the laundry list of costly setbacks over more than a decade of construction.
Joseph Blum has been there to see it all as the men and women on the bridge have worked in all kinds of conditions to make the blueprints a concrete and steel reality. He shoots with 25-30 pounds of equipment, climbing high above the water and dangling from sections of massive infrastructure. Blum has become accustomed to the conditions on the bridge: wind, rain, fog, cold and extreme heights. He’s also 72 years old. Blum spoke with WIRED last week after coming off the bridge where he was “tied-off” (in a harness) and hanging over 150 feet above the water as he watched parts of the falsework (the supporting bridge) being cut away.
[MORE: Constructing the World’s Largest Self-Anchored Suspension Bridge] via wired
As a student of engineering I feel like I’m plying a that reaches back to the Romans and their massive public works, and as a student of permaculture I am interested in how this built world interacts with our natural world over time.
What are your thoughts on the built world as we call it. From bridges to the internet…