San Francisco: Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge spans 8,981 feet across the Golden Gate, the opening of the San Francisco Bay onto the Pacific Ocean, connecting San Francisco on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula to Marin County. Designed by engineer Joseph Strauss and architect Irving Morrow, it was the longest suspension bridge span in the world when it opened on May 27, 1937. It has since been surpassed by eight other bridges, but still has the second longest suspension bridge main span in the United States after the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York.
Before the bridge was built, the only practical route across the Golden Gate was by boat, which held San Francisco's growth rate below the national average. However, many experts believed that the 6,700-foot strait could not be bridged. It had strong swirling tides, strong winds, and reached depths of 500-feet at its center.
In 1916, former engineering student James Wilkins wrote an article with a proposed design for a crossing in the San Francisco Bulletin. The City Engineer estimated the cost at an impractical $100 million and challenged bridge engineers to reduce costs. Joseph Strauss, an ambitious but modestly accomplished engineer, responded with a plan for bookend cantilevers connected by a central suspension segment, which he promised could be built for $17 million. Strauss spent the better part of the next decade drumming up support and construction began on January 5, 1933.
As chief engineer in charge, Strauss, with an eye towards self promotion downplayed the contributions of his collaborators who were largely responsible for the bridge's final form Architect Irving Morrow designed the overall shape of the bridge towers, the lighting scheme and Art Deco elements, and used the International Orange color as a sealant. And Charles Alton Ellis, collaborating remotely with Leon Moisseiff, was the principal engineer, producing the basic structural design, introducing Moisseiff's "deflection theory" by which a thin, flexible roadway would flex in the wind, greatly reducing stress by transmitting forces via suspension cables to the bridge towers
In 2007, the Golden Gate Bridge was ranked #5 on the AIA 150 America's Favorite Architecture list.
California Historical Landmark No. 974, San Francisco Landmark No. 222 (5/21/1999)