Thursday, March 08, 2007

Tower Bridge

London without Tower Bridge would be like Paris without the Eiffel Tower or New York without the Chrysler Building. They all transcend considerations of architectural taste or value to become symbols: totems drawing the tourists inexorably - for once you have seen them, been there, taken the photo and got the t-shirt, you can truly say you have visited the great city; inbibed its essence.

Tower Bridge is great because it's so naff. That Gothic revivalism - surely even in its time it was meant with a sense of fun?

It's a sympathetic partner for its neighbour, the Tower of London, but also references the most spectacular Gothic bridge of all - the medieval London Bridge, destroyed in the Georgian Enlightenment, and a ghost which still haunts this stretch of the river. Not for nothing is Tower Bridge still frequently mistaken for "London" Bridge.

But the cod-medievalism doesn't just cloak the robust Victorian engineering. Form does follow function - in an allusive sense. For what are those massive bascules if not oversized, paired drawbidges? Seeing them raised is a perfectly satisfying visual joke, and far more entertaining than a strictly functionalist version of the bridge would have allowed.

Opened in 1894, Tower Bridge is a good 11 years younger than Brooklyn Bridge in New York, another bridge with Gothic detailing allied with stupendous engineering achievement.

Tower Bridge Official website
Bridge lifting/opening dates and times

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