The 1979 P/A Awards jury challenged precedent by bestowing a rare First Award on a project in which engineers took the lead. Credit for the design of the Ruck-a-Chucky bridge was shared by T.Y. Lin International, Hanson Engineers, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). Leading the project, along with the founders of the Lin and Hanson firms, was SOM’s Myron Goldsmith, renowned as both an architect and an engineer. Juror Barry Elbasani praised the project as a reminder “that architecture is everywhere about us and not necessarily in a building.”
The bridge was designed to span the American River in California, about 10 miles upstream from a planned dam. The challenge was to connect roads running parallel to the steep valley walls without requiring the extensive and costly re-grading required for a straight bridge, and a curved span with customary vertical supports was ruled out by the 450-foot depth of the anticipated reservoir. Hence the “hanging arc” concept for the bridge, with a curved concrete deck supported by 80 post-tensioned cables anchored in the slopes of the gorge.
Although preliminary work at the dam site was underway when the bridge was designed, its construction was subsequently halted. The same thing happened to a very different bridge that remained unbuilt—another 1979 P/A winner, Michael Graves’s Fargo-Moorhead Cultural Center Bridge, which was to span the Red River between North Dakota and Minnesota.
1979 P/A Awards Jury
Weiming Lu, Hon. AIA
Bernard Spring, FAIA