February 20, 2003
As a long time practitioner of civil engineering, I was pleased to read
the article "The Art of
Engineering." To me a beautiful bridge is the epitome of both
art and engineering. As Professor Billington so aptly puts it, a great
bridge has "elegance, efficiency, and economy" and serves "symbolic,
scientific, and social" purposes.
Last year, as president of the American Society of Civil Engineers, I
had the opportunity to travel the country, indeed the world, visiting
some of the great engineering projects. Today's designers are no less
elegant than their predecessors and are creating wonderful new bridge
structures such as those in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Scandinavia, Korea and
in our own country.
I would add that the art of engineering extends far beyond bridge design
to the highway and mass transit systems that can blend in with the environment
and serve the social needs of an expanding population; to the "beauty"
of water and wastewater and proper environmental management systems which
restore, protect and enhance our natural environment; and of course, to
the extraordinary contemporary buildings conceived by master architects
with the support of master engineers.
We think of bridges as engineering projects and buildings as architectural
projects. In truth, today's major projects are conceived, developed and
built by teams of engineers and architects: together they are artists
of the built environment.
It is gratifying to learn of Professor Billington's popularity on the
Referring to your article
about Professor David Billington, Princeton is most fortunate to have
a professor of his tremendous ability to get students to understand the
quality and the beauty of things physical. The Class of 1935 had its first
European vacation trip to Crans-Montana, Switzerland. Bob McEwen and I
did the planning. Professor Billington was to be in Switzerland at the
same time. I asked him to give a talk to the class one evening. He did
so very willingly. His topic was the Bridges of Maillart. His talk was
fascinating. After the talk was over, three classmates came up to me,
one at a time, and in almost the exact words said, "Bob, we didn't
want to hear a talk on Swiss bridges, but when Professor Billington started
to talk, we did not want him to stop."