Bridge Collapses After Just 10 Years Because Designers Were Too Focused On Looks

I’m no bridge expert, but I don’t think they should look like that. - Photo: Geir Olsen / NTB / AFP (Getty Images)
I’m no bridge expert, but I don’t think they should look like that. - Photo: Geir Olsen / NTB / AFP (Getty Images)

It’s a tough time to be a bridge designer right now, with a span in Baltimore collapsing after a ship crashed into it and New York’s Verrazano-Narrows Bridge coming dangerously close to a similar fate. Now, a bridge collapse in Norway has been blamed on designers spending too much time focusing on the way it looked.

The Tretten Bridge in the Øyer area of southern Norway collapsed in 2022 after a heavy goods vehicle attempted to cross it. Now, an inquiry into the collapse of the bridge over the Gudbrandsdalslågen river has found that it failed because its designers spent too long making sure it looked nice and not enough time ensuring it worked as a bridge, reports Dezeen.

Designers of the bridge, which was opened in 2012, were accused of “inadequate caution” in the development of the span. As Dezeen explains:


“The investigation has shown that inadequate caution was exercised in the planning, design, inspection and approval of Tretten Bridge, with respect to the risk factors linked to its unconventional design,” the report said.

“A short construction period, span lengths and reuse of existing foundation were framework conditions for the planning of the bridge,” it continued.

“These framework conditions, combined with the choice of material and a strong focus on aesthetics, contributed to the structure not being robust.”

What’s more, the reports found that the bridge should have undergone strengthening and support work in 2016 that could have saved it from collapse. This came after the Perkolo Bridge fell into a river when a heavy goods vehicle attempted to cross.

Similarities were spotted between the designs of the two bridges, which the New Civil Engineer called “inherent vulnerabilities in its design.”

One additional factor that could have weakened the design of the Tretten Bridge even further came as a result of the time frame in which it was constructed. During the bridge’s design and build process, Norway was transitioning from its own, older building regulations to new European rules governing bridge design.

At this time, projects in progress were permitted to work to the older regulations, and that’s exactly what the team behind the Tretten Bridge followed. The investigation touched on this as well, stating that “all the involved parties can be criticized” for their decision to work within outdated frameworks.

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