In the late nineteenth century American civil and structural engineers initiated a critique of architects that centered on their apparent inability to create a single style befitting the modern age. For many engineers, architecture had become anachronistic. Conversely, they asserted that their progressive, technological production was unquestionably modern. By the early twentieth century some architects looked to engineering for a path beyond the apparent impasse of eclecticism. They believed that their profession would regain its relevance if it could bridge the schism between architecture and engineering. One of the great building programs of the era, the bridge was elevated as the site and the metaphor for the reunification of architecture and engineering. From 1920 to 1927, Paul Cret served as the architect for the Delaware River Bridge in Philadelphia, the longest suspension bridge in the world when completed. Through his designs for this bridge, he asked what weight bridges were summoned to support when privileged as the point of professional reunion. In contrast to unification construed as total fusion, Cret asserted that bridging simultaneously generates connection and emphasizes separation. Acknowledging both aspects of bridging, Cret sought a form of collaboration that would preserve the limit between architecture and engineering. Our consciousness of limits, he insisted, separates us from other life forms and tragically renders us human. With his collaborative design for the Delaware River Bridge, Cret endeavored to stage this tragedy.
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Research Article| September 01 1998
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Jonathan E. Farnham; Staging the Tragedy of Time: Paul Cret and the Delaware River Bridge. Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 1 September 1998; 57 (3): 258–279. doi: https://doi.org/10.2307/991346
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