Off the Bookshelf: The Bridge That Enhanced Nature

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Short excerpts from long reads

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"Triumphantly, the Golden Gate Bridge linked the urbanism of San Francisco with the unspoiled headlands of Marin as if to suggest the paradox of California/America itself: a gift of nature, a continent that F. Scott Fitzgerald described as the last place commensurate with the human capacity for wonder, a sacred text, a revelation of the Divine Mind, as far as the Anglo-American Protestant imagination was concerned -- yet a place as well to be reshaped into cities, with canals, roadways, railways, highways, aqueducts, bridges, and all those other entities required by urban civilization. Yet the Bridge did not destroy its site; rather, it enhanced it, as the Parthenon enhances the hill upon which it stands. The Golden Gate Bridge announced to the world something important about the American imagination and the American stewardship of the continent, taken at its best. For all their faults, Americans could reform themselves to exercise proper stewardship and would more and more do so, despite the squanderings of the nineteenth century.

"From an iconic perspective, the Golden Gate Bridge offers a West Coast counterpart to the Statue of Liberty, announcing, in terms of American Art Deco, American achievement and the higher purposes of American culture. And it does this with its own element of historical narrative, subtly contained in the Art Deco stylization of its towers played off against repetitive cables descending into a reversed arch against an interplay of city, sea, and sky." ~ from Golden Gate by Kevin Starr


Image credit: Reuters/Andy Kuno
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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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