The Art of Structural Engineering: Bridges

An example of artistic bridge design from the course. Image courtesy of the McGraw Center.

Launched on January 29, 2016, Professor Maria Garlock's "The Art of Structural Engineering: Bridges" is the first in a series of three online course projects that she will offer which have been funded by the 250th Anniversary Fund for Innovation in Undergraduate Education. This generous funding has enabled Professor Garlock to record her lectures and interviews at bridge locations in Princeton, New York and San Francisco. The material was beautifully shot and edited by the online course group in the McGraw Center for Teaching & Learning. The course also uniquely combines the creative, social and engineering elements of bridge-building. 

Delivered on the EdX platform and intended for a general audience, students will learn how to analyze bridges from three perspectives:

  1. Efficiency = calculations of forces/stresses
  2. Economy = evaluation of societal context and cost
  3. Elegance = form/appearance based on engineering principles, not decoration

With a focus on some significant bridges built since the industrial revolution, the course illustrates how engineering is a creative discipline and can become art. It also shows the influence of the economic and social context in bridge design and the interplay between forces and form.

This is the first of three courses on the Art of Structural Engineering, each of which are independent of each other. The two other courses will be on tall buildings/towers and vaults.

The McGraw Center and the 250th Anniversary Fund are directed by the Office of the Dean of the College.