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I asked a knowledgable and deeply thoughtful bridge engineer to think about Blue Mind, since bridges are one way people have access to water: walking, running, riding or driving.
When a bridge engineer has an appreciation of 'Blue Mind' a bridge becomes much more than simply a structure used to span water, a way from A to B, it becomes a moment of awe, an opportunity for inspiration, a chance to relax.
Some bridges provide water views along their length to the walker or driver. Others don't.
When I lived in San Francisco, I used to run across the Golden Gate Bridge, rain or shine. The sun, the fog, warm or frigid, the ocean, the bay, sometimes alone, sometimes crowds. It was always a peak Blue Mind experience.
I love what Kelly wrote:
"A bridge engineer knows the power of water. Ask the inspector who dives down to make sure the foundation is safe far below the surface. Ask the designer who thinks about 100 year flood levels and channel widths, all the while working to make sure that the powerful water flow won't move soil away, scour under the footings, and bring the bridge down. Ask the construction engineer who hangs workers out far above the surface of choppy bays and rivers to connect concrete and steel together. There is no denying that water is in charge when we try to bridge a gap to make safe passage for travelers.
Bridges are metaphorical. We are constantly talking about building bridges between groups, bridging the communication gap, bridging the gender, the race, the whatever gap. Bridging the gap between rich and poor. Or burning bridges. Or trying NOT to burn bridges. Bridges are a sign of peace, and in war, we tear them down. Bridges are a sign of prosperity and new opportunity...taking us to places we couldn't get, or at least easily get, before. Bridges are also something we take for granted. Driving over them without a thought every day, that is,until one falls down. When the bridge is gone, we stand at the edge of the water and wonder how we will ever cross again.
So why, then, wouldn't a bridge between engineering and the Blue Mind way of thinking exist? Of course it does. Having been both a field construction engineer as well as a designer I have spent many days in the field looking at bridges hanging half complete over rivers far below. I know that the experienceof standing next to rushing water brings a new perspective to what we do for a living. What we know, as bridge engineers, is that we can't overcome - we can't BEAT - that power. We have to COEXISIT with it. When you stand on a bridge over a choppy, treacherous bay - say the Golden Gate Bridge, or the Mackinaw Bridge - you can feel it sway. It is slightly moving with the wind...made to be flexible enough to coexist. Its towers are pushing back against the waves and the current while it digsits "roots" - pilings, drilled shafts, deep foundations - into the rock or soil, hanging on tight to coexist. Its cables are holding the deck high to coexist with rising sea levels, and passage of goods and people underneath. People, steel , concrete, wind, water...all working to coexist.
To drive over one of these bridges, such as the Tampa Bay Sunshine Skyway Bridge or the Brooklyn Bridge, is to conquer the water, just for a few minutes...to be stronger, to cross with ease. But to stand on that same bridge as a pedestrian is a different experience. In the instant that you step to the railing and look over you feel the magic in hovering over something so powerful. That you can stand still and supported above such a force is a testament to the human mind...an engineer's mind. A mind that has respect for that water. A Blue MInd.
So yes, I would say engineers are a part of the Blue Mind way of thinking. We have to be. Sometimes we lose sight of that thinking. As designers, we sit in the office too long, designing a bridge "logically" with the skills we've been taught. A site becomes all numbers, survey plots, hydraulic tables - a black and white drawing in our minds or a three dimensional model on a computer screen. We never bother to go and look for ourselves. Sometimes, this results in a bridge that DOESN'T coexist; one that doesn't quite fit the surroundings , the wants of the people, or one that can't be built easily. The solution is always to visit the site. Feel the site. Spend time on the site. Visit with the community that will be using the bridge. Understand the movement of the water and slope of the banks on a tactical, physical level. Allow our brains to see more than just the numbers on the page. The solution is to FEEL what the bridge needs to coexist.
Bridges benefit from a Blue Minded engineer. The traveling public benefits from a Blue Minded engineer. People can look at a bridge, a beautiful structure coexisting with the power of water, and feel the blue in their mind."
Kelley C. Rehm, is a licensed Professional Engineer serving as the Program Manager for Bridges and Structures with the non-profit association AASHTO (America Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials). She works nationally with all 50 state Departments of Transportation and their Bridge Divisions to manage updates to codes and specifications that are federally mandated for use in bridge design, construction and inspection. She also helps to promote needed research in the area of bridges and structures. Kelley has over 17years experience in bridge design, construction and management working both as a private consultant andbefore that as a design engineer with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. Kelley is also a contractor in independent research with NCHRP, and other consultants and universities.
Currently she is a member of the Board of Directors for the non-profit organization Bridging the Gap Africa. This organization builds footbridges for rural communities in East Africa where walking is the main mode of transportation. These footbridges help prevent deaths from drowning and animal attacks as well as connect the communities to marketplaces, schools and healthcare. Kelley is the lead engineer for the organization and the chair of the Technical Advisory Committee.
Kelley has a Bachelors Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Kentucky as well as a Masters Degree in Structures also from the University of Kentucky. She is All But Dissertation (ABD) at Vanderbilt University in the area of Transportation Management.
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