Mix your own iconic color! International Orange CMYK recipe: Cyan: 0%, Magenta: 69%, Yellow: 100%, Black: 6%.

The majestic Golden Gate Bridge, perfectly sited and awash with romance, is synonymous with the San Francisco Bay Area and with large-scale suspension bridges. Today it is difficult to imagine a time when it did not exist. Before it was built, however, most thought it never would be.

There were exceptions. Veteran bridge designer Joseph B. Strauss (1870-1938) had lobbied for two decades to have the span erected. In 1929, he was appointed chief engineer for the Golden Gate, after competing against eleven other firms. To realize what would be the longest bridge yet built, he hired several of his rivals as consultants, including Othmar Ammann, Charles Derleth Jr., and Leon Moisseiff. Construction would not begin for four years.

And the weather! The wind roars, the fog gets thick and soupy…. Sometimes, though, we’re actually above the fog. Down below, tourists are shivering while we’re up here in T-shirts getting a tan.


The bridge’s greatest assetits settingpresented its most formidable construction challenge. The best location for the south pier was a spot 1,100 feet (335 meters) from shore in deep, frigid ocean waters. Strauss planned to build an enclosed oval fender ring around the site of the pier, float out a huge caisson, and sink it with concrete. A temporary trestle roadway was built out to the pier to bring trucks, water pipes, and electricity to the site. Delays and expenses mounted as the trestle was destroyed and had to be rebuilt twice. Strauss abandoned his original plan and turned the oval frame into a cofferdam that, filled with concrete, became the support for the piers.

Construction of the graceful art deco towers then commenced. Two cables, each 3 feet (0.9 meters) thick, pass over the tops of the towers and are secured in giant anchorages at either end. Project steel came from Pennsylvania via the Panama Canal; the cables were made by John A. Roebling’s Sons Company of New Jersey.

Fanatical about safety on the job, Strauss implemented rigorous precautions, including the first use on a major bridge of hard hats and a safety net. That net saved the lives of nineteen men, who subsequently formed the Halfway-to-Hell Club.

Not all are as fortunate. More people die by suicide here than at any other bridge in the United States. Some choose it for its landmark status, others for the height of its deck, which is 220 feet (67 meters) above water. For all, however, access is easy, as the bridge’s footpath is adjacent to a low railing. Concerned citizens have been agitating for deterrent barriers for nearly a half century. Finally, in 2014, a steel net that would extend twenty feet below and twenty feet out from the bridge was approved. The net is unique, the first large-scale horizontal net installation on a major bridge, as large as seven football fields. Preserving the Golden Gate’s iconicity added further complications. “We will not gloss over critical structural details in favor of speed. We will do this right,” said Ewa

Bauer, chief engineer of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway, and Transportation District, which governs the bridge. Net installation, to begin in 2017, will take about four years.

International Orange, the bridge’s hallmark color, was chosen to complement its natural setting. Strauss insisted on rigorous safety precautions, including the first use on a major bridge project of hard hats and a safety net. The net saved the lives of nineteen men who fell; they subsequently formed the Halfway-to-Hell Club. Tons of writhing steel and concrete are ripped from the anchorages and plunge into the water.

In 1992 Gertie’s sunken remains were placed on the National Register of Historic Places to protect them from salvagers.

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