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VII. Using the key words describe three ancient types of bridges.

VIII. Complete the following table:

The period and the country Type of the bridge Materials used Difficulties
1.   Beam bridge    
2.     stones  
3. Ancient Asia      

Text 4: The Middle Ages and The Renaissance


1. What kinds of bridges were in the Ancient World?

2. What are the purposes of bridges in the Middle Ages? Were they still the same?

3. What countries in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance were first to develop bridge building?

After the fall of the Roman Empire, progress in European bridge building slowed considerably until the Renaissance. Fine bridges sporadically appeared, however. Medieval bridges are particularly noted for the ogival, or pointed arch. With the pointed arch the ten­dency to sag at the crown is less dangerous, and there is less horizontal thrust at the abutments. Medieval bridges served many purposes. Chapels and shops were commonly built on them, and many were fortified with towers and ramparts. Some featured a drawbridge, a medieval innovation. The most famous bridge of that age was Old London Bridge, begun in the late 12th century under the direction of a priest, Peter of Colechurch, and completed in 1209, four years after his death. London Bridge was designed to have 19 pointed arches, each with a 24-foot span and resting on piers 20 feet wide. There were obstructions encountered in building the cofferdams, however, so that the arch spans eventually varied from 15 to 34 feet. The uneven quality of construction resulted in a frequent need for repair, but the bridge held a large jumble of houses and shops and survived more than 600 years before being replaced. A more elegant bridge of the period was the Saint-Benezet Bridge at Avignon, Fr. Begun in 1177, part of it still stands today. Another medieval bridge of note is Monnow Bridge in Wales, which featured three separate ribs of stone under the arches. Rib construction reduced the quantity of material needed for the rest of the arch and lightened the load on the foundations.

During the Renaissance, the Italian architect Andrea Palladio took the principle of the truss, which previously had been used for roof supports, and designed several successful wooden bridges with spans up to 100 feet. Longer bridges, however, were still made of stone. Another Italian designer, Bartolommeo Ammannati, adapted the medieval ogival arch by concealing the angle at the crown and by starting the curves of the arches vertically in their springings from the piers. This elliptical shape of arch, in which the rise-to-span ratio was as low as 1:7, became known as basket-handled and has been adopted widely since. Ammannati's elegant Santa Trinita Bridge (1569) in Florence, with two elliptical arches, carried pedestrians and later automobiles until it was destroyed during World War II; it was afterward rebuilt with many of the original materials recovered from the riverbed. Yet another Italian, Antonio da Ponte, designed the Rialto Bridge (1591) in Venice, an ornate arch made of two segments with a span of 89 feet and a rise of 21 feet. Antonio overcame the problem of soft, wet soil by having 6,000 timber piles driven straight down under each of the two abutments, upon which the masonry was placed in such a way that the bed joints of the stones were perpendicular to the line of thrust of the arch. This innovation of angling stone or concrete to the line of thrust has been continued into the present.


I. Answer the following questions:

1. What are medieval bridges noted for?

2. What are the advantages of a pointed arch?

3. There were many purposes of medieval bridges. What were they?

4. What was interesting about Monnow Bridge (in Wales) construction? What was rib construction necessary for?

5. What is a basket-handled arch? What is it for?

6. While building the Rialto Bridge Antonio da Ponte faced a problem. What was it? How was it overcome?


II. Match the meanings of these terms with their definition:

1. ogive 2. to sag 3. abutment 4. crown 5. load 6. drawbridge 7. span 8. truss 9. pier 10. arch 1. Part of a structure which supports the end of a span or accepts the thrust of an arch 2. pointed arch 3. a point at the top of an arch. 4. have a downward bulge or curve in the middle 5. The horizontal space between two supports of a structure 6. what is carried or to be carried 7. hinged retractable bridge, esp. over a moat. 8. A vertical structure which supports the ends of a multi-span superstructure at a location between abutments 9. A structural form which is used in the same way as a beam, but because it is made of an web-like assembly of smaller members it can be made longer, deeper, and therefore, stronger than a beam or girder while being lighter than a beam of similar dimensions. 10. A curved structure which supports a vertical load mainly by axial compression

III. Put the words in correct forms into the text:

Monnow Bridge is the only remaining … fortified river bridge in Great Britain with its gate tower still standing on the bridge. It is … in the town of Monmouth, which stands at the … of the Wye and the Monnow rivers. The Monnow Bridge, as its name suggests, stands over the River Monnow. The bridge was built late in the 13th century, … in 1272. The gatehouse on Monnow Bridge called Monnow Gate, which gives it is remarkable and noteworthy … , was added to the bridge in the 14th century. In 1297, Edward I to provided a murage grant in favour of Monmouth to enable the people of Monmouth to build the medieval town walls and gates. The work was still … in 1315, or it was in need of repair, since the authority of 1297 was renewed on June 1, 1315. Middle Ages location, confluent complete   appear   incompletion

IV. Read the following text to find information on:

1) the shape of medieval bridges 4) subsidiary arches

2) the purpose of cutwaters 5) adjacent structures

3) the characteristics of spans

The Characteristics of Medieval Bridges

They have projecting piers, triangular in shape, known as cutwaters. These are found on the upper side with the point towards the stream their purpose being to protect the pier from the force of the current and from the impact of trees and other objects borne along by the water.

The spans varied from five feet in the case of small bridges to twenty feet or more in a few cases. The first were semicircular with a barrel vault. In the 13th century pointed arches replaced these arches and groined vaults replaced barrel vaults. Here the main weight was taken on ribs of stone.

Many medieval bridges are humped, especially where the roadway rose over pointed Gothic arches. The gradually flattening of the Gothic arch had the effect of reducing the hump and a somewhat flatter roadway appears in the 15th century.

Often a medieval bridge is extremely long and included a long stone causeway which leads up to it across a flood plain. This is pierced by subsidiary arches which do not regularly have channels of water flowing through them. They are used, however, at times of flood to allow the swollen waters to escape away, instead of ponding up behind the bridge.

Further structures connected with bridges include chapels built for bridge hermits. Gateways and drawbridges were also found.

V. Now you are ready to describe bridges of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance


VI. Continue completing the table:

The period and the country Type(s) of the bridge Materials used Difficulties
1.   Beam bridge    
2.     stones  
3. Ancient Asia      
4. The Middle Ages      
5. The Renaissance      

Text 5:The 18th and the 19th centuries


1. What types of bridges were developed in the 18th-19th centuries?

2. In what way did Industrial Revolution influenced bridge building?

3. What were the main purposes of bridges in the 18th-19th centuries?

By the middle of the 18th century, bridge building in masonry reached its zenith. Jean-Rodolphe Perronet, builder of some of the finest bridges of his day (Pont de Neuilly (1774), Pont Sainte-Maxence (1785), Pont de la Concorde (1791)), developed very flat arches supported on slender piers. In London the young Swiss engineer Charles Labelye evolved a novel and ingenious method of sinking the foundations, employing huge timber caissons that were filled with masonry after they had been floated into position for each pier. The 12 semicircular arches of Portland stone, rising in a graceful camber over the river, set a high standard of engineering and architectural achievement for the next generation and stood for a hundred years. Also in London, John Rennie built the first Waterloo Bridge with level-topped masonry arches.

In the 18th century, designs with timber, especially trusses, reached new span lengths. In 1755 a Swiss builder, Hans Grubenmann, used trusses to support a covered timber bridge with spans of 171 and 193 feet over the Rhine at Schaffhausen. One of the best long-span truss designs was developed by Theodore Burr, of Tonington, Conn., and based on a drawing by Palladio; a truss strengthened by an arch, it set a new pattern for covered bridges in the United States. Burr's McCall's Ferry Bridge (1815; on the Susquehanna River near Lancaster, Pa.) had a record-breaking span of 360 feet. Another successful design was the "lattice truss," patented by Ithiel Town in 1820, in which top and bottom chords were made of horizontal timbers connected by a network of diagonal planks.

Early trusses were built without precise knowledge of how the loads are carried by each part of the truss. The first engineer to analyze correctly the stresses in a truss was Squire Whipple, an American who published his theories in 1869. Understanding precisely how loads were carried led to a reduction in materials, which by then were shifting from wood and stone to iron and steel.

During the Industrial Revolution the timber and masonry tradition was eclipsed by the use of iron, which was stronger than stone and usually less costly. The first bridge built solely of iron spanned the River Severn near Coalbrookdale, Eng. Designed by Thomas Pritchard and built in 1779 by Abraham Darby. the Coalbrookdale Bridge, constructed of cast-iron pieces, is a ribbed arch whose nearly semicircular 100-foot span imitates stone construction by exploiting the strength of cast iron in compression. Iron bridges were judged to be technically the best of their time. The use of relatively economical wrought iron freed up the imaginations of designers, and one of the first results was Telford's use of chain suspension cables to carry loads by tension. His eyebar cables consisted of wrought-iron bars of 20 to 30 feet with holes at each end. Each eye matched the eye on another bar, and the two were linked by iron pins. The first of these major chain-suspension bridges and the finest of its day was Telford's bridge over the Menai Strait in northwestern Wales. At the time of its completion in 1826, its 580-foot span was the world's longest. In 1893 its timber deck was replaced with a steel deck, and in 1940 steel chains replaced the corroded wrought-iron ones. The bridge is still in service today.

The rise of the locomotive as a mode of transportation during the 19th century spurred the de­sign of new bridges and bridge forms strong enough to handle both the increased weight and the dynamic loads of trains. The most significant of these early railway bridges was Robert Stephenson's Britannia Bridge, also over the Menai Straits. Completed in 1850, Stephenson's design was the first to employ the hollow box girder. The hollow box gave the deck the extra stiffness of a truss, but it was easier to build and required less engineering precision— at the cost, however, of extra material. The wrought-iron boxes through which the trains ran were originally to be carried by chain suspension cables, but, during the building, extensive theoretical work and testing indicated that the cables were not needed; thus the towers stand strangely useless.

Among the most important railway bridges of the latter 19th century were those of Gustave Eiffel. Between 1867 and 1869 Eiffel constructed four viaducts of trussed-girder design along the rail line between Gannat and Commentry, west of Vichy in France. The most striking of these, at Rouzat, features wrought-iron towers that for the first time visibly reflect the need for lateral stiffness to counter the influence of horizontal wind loads. Lateral stiffness is achieved by curving the towers out at the base where they meet the masonry foundations ( Eiffel's famous Parisian tower of 1889).

Niagara Bridge (USA), whose completion in 1855 vindicated John Roebling's conviction that the suspension bridge would work for railroads, lasted nearly half-a-century before it had to be replaced in 1896. At mid-century, it was the only form capable of uniting the 821ft (250m) gorge in a single span. This half-stereoscopic viewshows the massive stiffening trusses and the wire-cable stays that tied the deck superstructure to the walls of the gorge.

In 1855 Roebling completed an 821-foot-span rail­way bridge over the Niagara River in western New York state. Wind loads were not yet understood in any theo­retical sense, but Roebling recognized the practical need to prevent vertical oscillations. He therefore added nu­merous wire stays, which extended like a giant spiderweb in various directions from the deck to the valley below and to the towers above. The Niagara Bridge confounded nearly all the engineering judgment of the day, which held that suspension bridges could not sustain railway traffic. The 1874 Eads Bridge was the first major bridge built entirely of steel, excluding the pier foundations. Designed by James Buchanan Eads, it has three arch spans, of which the two sides are each 502 feet and the middle is 520 feet. The Eads bridge was given added strength by its firm foundations, for which pneumatic caissons, instead of cofferdams, were used for the first time in the United States. Another innovation carried out by Eads, based on a proposal by Telford, was the construction of arches by the cantilevering method. The arches were held up by cables supported by temporary towers above the piers, all of which were removed when the arches became self-supporting.


I. Answer the following questions:

1. How did the method of sinking the foundations work?

2. What was the reason for making spans longer?

3. Who set a new pattern for covered bridges in the United States? What was it?

4. Why is it necessary to know stresses in trusses? Who was the first to analyze it?

5. How is lateral stiffness achieved?

6. How can you prove that Niagara Bridge confounded nearly all the engineering judgment of the day?


II. Match the meanings of these terms with their definition:

deck, wrought iron, cantilever, lattice, caisson, truss, stress, masonry, girder

1. a stonework

2. watertight chamber for underwater construction work

3. framework supporting a roof, bridge

4. pressure or tension

5. tough malleable form of iron suitable for forging or rolling, not cast.

6. a horizontal structure member supporting vertical loads by resisting bending. 7. an assembly of smaller pieces arranged in a gridlike pattern; sometimes used a decorative element or to form a truss of primarily diagonal members.

8. the top surface of a bridge which carries the traffic.

9. a structural member which projects beyond a supporting column or wall and is counterbalanced and/or supported at only one end.

III. Choose the correct preposition:

Bridge building (for, in, with, by) masonry, arches supported (on, with, through, in) slender piers, the construction (on, with, by, of) arches ( as, in, with, by) the cantilevering method, a viaduct (in, by, of, across) trussed-girder design (along, according to, with, on) the rail line, timber deck was replaced (into, by, with, instead of) a steel deck, the strength (in, of, off, by) cast iron (in, with, on, through) compression, horizontal timbers connected (with, by, in, without) a network (of, with, across, in) diagonal planks.

IV. Put the correct form of the words into the sentences:

Though extremely…, wood has one obvious disadvantage – it… . Wernwag's Colossus, destroyed by fire in 1838, is but one example of many … wooden bridges lost in this manner throughout history. There was another material, however, whose use at the end of the 18th century offered bridge engineers an … to the traditional materials of timber, stone, and brick. Although it had first been used in antiquity, iron was the miracle material of the … Revolution. The Greeks and Romans had used it to … stone pediments and columns in their temples and iron links had been forged by the Chinese and used in … bridges. versatility burning outstand     alternate     industry reinforcement   suspend

V. Every person whose name was mentioned in the text contributed much into bridge building history. Try to recollect their achievements: Squire Whipple, Hans Grubenmann, Charles Labelye, Roebling, James Buchanan Eads, Robert Stephenson

VI. Continue completing the table:

The period and the country Type(s) of the bridge Materials used Difficulties
1.   Beam bridge    
2.     stones  
3. Ancient Asia      
4. The Middle Ages      
5. The Renaissance      
6. The 18th century      
7. The 19th century      


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