A Bite-Sized Bay Bridge Book

Get your hands on this amazing collection of illustrations from the bridge's architect, Donald MacDonald.

Photo Courtesy of Chronicle Books / Illustration by Donald MacDonald Where even the most beautiful photographs may, after a while, make one's eyes glaze over, the illustrations invite sustained study and neatly highlight many, many cool details. 

As we mentioned last week, the new Eastern span of the Bay Bridge — called the White Span by one of its architects, Donald MacDonald — is a beautiful, swan-like feat of engineering that took nearly 20 years to build. A new book illustrated by MacDonald is a must-have for any design, architecture or Bay Area enthusiast geek.

The very idea of this blossoming bridge has long captivated the imaginations of San Francisco's citizens. Why was it taking so long? What would it be like? One friend of mine won a raffle allowing him to climb one of the towers, a dizzying feat I would never be capable of. Three years in a row, as the bridge neared completion, it would close on Labor Day weekend and everyone would watch streaming video of another section being slid into place, then drive over the new section of the bridge, gauging its look and feel, peering back at the newly abandoned section. Then we would watch the next section slowly grow over the next 12 months. 

It's rare, in our 24-hour, no-delayed-gratification world, to be forced to wait and watch in this way. Like new-age acolytes on a weekend devoted to "conscious eating," Bay Area denizens felt outsized excitement, anticipation and gratification every step of the way, even while complaining about the building materials, politicking and nitpicking that go along with any public works project. 

MacDonald himself is a fascinating figure. Like Julia Morgan, he is as much an engineer as an architect, equally skilled in the inner workings as in the aesthetic design of his structures. He has been called a "leading pioneer" by the American Institute of Architecture, which inducted him as a fellow in 1983, and has won dozens of design awards. Over the past 30 years, he has designed some 30-odd bridge projects, many of them in the Bay Area, many of them seismic retrofits — a huge responsibility in this wobbly neighborhood.

As a graduate student at Columbia University, MacDonald sold his own oil paintings to make ends meet. Now, he has provided a book's worth of delicious illustrations (in colored pencil) to create Bay Bridge: History and Design of a New Icon, from Chronicle Books. His reproductions of area maps, Ohlone Indian reed huts, the San Francisco ferry terminal, beloved architectural details of local buildings, comparisons of different bridge styles, and so on are worthy of hours of artistic/geeky contemplation. Text by Ira Nadel explains the background and history of the bridge and the world it was built into.

The book itself is pint-sized, so it makes a great addition to a gift basket for out-of-town guests (there are companion volumes about the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz). It's a gorgeous celebration from the mind of the visionary who guided his plan from fantasy to reality.

Zillow Real Estate Search

What do you think?

See Also