How the Golden Gate Bridge Was Built

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A celebratory history of one of the world's most famous structures

Even at 75 years old, the Golden Gate Bridge remains one of the most striking structures in the world. And not just for its beauty, but for what its beauty reminds us of: persistence and accomplishment. Man working on nature, and vice versa. Metal and sea and mountain and fog, orange and green and white and blue, unified into a single vision. The Golden Gate, both despite and because of its age, is still one of the best examples we have of "the technological sublime."

The video above, detailing the step-by-step construction of the bridge, is a reminder that even the building of the Golden Gate featured elements of the sublime. The construction teams started their work on the peninsulas, building out over the wind-whipped waters of the San Francisco Bay. With labor and 70,000 tons of steel, they built arms that reached out to each other over the straits, getting closer by the day.

Given the strait's precarious mixture of violent winds, swirling currents, and thick fogs, many thought such a bridge couldn't be built. Many others simply opposed its building for aesthetic and economic reasons. "While a bridge was an obvious need, it was not an obvious possibility," the video notes. 

But the bridge, as bridges tend to do, won out. On November 18, 1936, the structure's arms met in the middle of the Golden Gate. And on May 27 of the next year, the bridge opened for business -- its completion and its charisma, the video declares, proving that "all men are builders at heart." 


Video courtesy the Prelinger Archives via Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg.

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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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