Daily Archives: April 30, 2007

Millau Viaduct & Me

If Lord Foster was to come to town.

Kiss me Hardy, or was it just Kismet? Whatever the saying was, watching 3 upper class English lads rolling across the French countryside in supercars ( a Pagani Zonda, a Ford GT, and a Ferrari F430) on telly last night, all of my thoughts about the proposed new Carisbrook stadium were spelt out to me.

What were the presenters of TopGear doing driving close to two million dollars of suprercars to a viaduct in the south-west of France? If they wanted to test the metal of the cars, a road trip across the plains and hills of Germany, with exuberant use of the throttle along the Autobahn would have made more sense. Or at the very least, carry on the trip to their rightful home, Monaco on the South Coast, home of the supercar, super rich and Monte Carlo Grand Prix. But no their journey took in the rolling countryside of France, with the occasional mountain traverse. A seemingly pointless destination? These cars are not the most expensive on the market (Bugatti Veyron $1,440,800 USD), the fastest supercars (Koenigsegg CCX, Aston Martin DBR9 or Bugatti Veyron) or the most popular supercar, but they were objects of automotive beauty and very desirable objects. The presenters laughed at the shape and sounds of them, and most of all their power and awe inspiring aura. The expression “this is nuts” was used, “madness” and even expletives. These cars demanded the attention of the locals in Paris (which is saying something in the capital of style), they deserved the plaudits of the critics; quite simply they were stunning and amazing pieces of engineering.

We were still no closer to understanding why the 3 of them in supercars were heading towards the Millau Viaduct, until they actually got there. The Millau Viaduct could, if one was to be so vulgar, be described as a bridge. It’s an engineering artefact joining to sides of a valley, up to 1000ft in the air. It could have been big, solid and a visual disaster. However the people responsible for the designing and building of the viaduct were adamant that it should be more than a bridge. The best architect was hired, the right materials were used, and the resulting form to provide the function was nothing short of madness. Towering columns, rising up from the valley below, ever so gently cradle the deck as it stretches from column to column, as if it was a baby – tenderly yet with security. To strengthen the structure the columns supporting the suspension cables atop the viaduct are sleek, slender yet monumental and supportive. The cables themselves were not an afterthought. Not one single aspect of the bridge was an after thought.

The 3 presenters took their supercars to the Millau Viaduct to use Lord Fosters creation as one monumental metaphor for the existence of supercars. They are both mad and beautiful, powerful yet tender, they are design and engineering feats of care and insanity. Bridges and cars come in the none too inspiring beige 5 door family salon flavour worldwide. You’d pass any number of cars every day without even giving them another thought, as is the case every time one drives over bridges the length and breadth of the country. But why with $190 million dollars would one want to build in beige?

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