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Projects : Golden Gate Bridge Exhibit

Golden Gate Bridge Outdoor Exhibition


Descriptions and Summary Illustrations of exhibits [download list]

1-6 | 7-12 | 13-18 | 19-24 | 25-30 | 31-36

Exhibit Description
Full-size Footprint of One Tower Leg
Outline of full-size footprint of one leg of one tower embedded in the paving; provides a sense of scale for the visitor (the nearer South Tower being 0.4 miles and the North Tower 1.2 miles away). Companion (#2) panel explains the outline. A “discovery” or surprise for the visitor and a photo opportunity.
Bridge Towers
Explains how the entire weight of the bridge deck, with vehicles, pedestrians, bikes, etc., is carried up to the main cables and up over the towers. Where the cables go over the towers they hand off that load. The towers must carry all the weight down to their foundations. The size of the “footprint” at the foundation is related to the tremendous weight the towers support.
Seismic Retrofit of Lattice Truss
The original bracing members (struts) in the arch structure and adjacent approach spans were made of hundreds of small pieces of steel riveted together. A seismic retrofit has replaced many of these lattice truss struts with modern one-piece steel tubes – but with triangles carefully laser-cut out so the replacement struts look like the originals.
Seismic Isolation
Approach spans to the Golden Gate Bridge have been retrofitted with seismic isolators. In an earthquake, the isolator deforms, resulting in the structure above the isolators experiencing a less violent level of shaking
South Tower Foghorn
When it’s foggy, visitors may not be able to see the Bridge, but in that case they get to hear the foghorns. An explanation of what they’re hearing: South Tower (single booming blast) and Midspan (double higher-pitched horn), each with its own rhythm/rate. Fog also tells the story of the Golden Gate’s influence on weather in the Bay Area.
Midspan Foghorn
Same exhibit as #4, but there are two separate disks with numerals at this tabletop exhibit to direct the visitor’s gaze to the two different locations on the large centerpiece model, orienting them as to what “South Tower” and “Midspan” mean.
[see #3]
Suspender Rope Strength “Chairlift”
The weight of the deck and what it carries is supported by the 500 vertical lines that extend across the Bridge, the steel suspender ropes. The exhibit translates the weight of the visitor(s) into a multiple of the capacity of the piece of suspender rope that holds them up (a factor in the range of 3,000 to 4,000).
Deck Torsional Resistance
Completed in 1937, the design of the Golden Gate Bridge did not benefit from knowledge about the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1940, which twisted itself to collapse in a moderate breeze. After a windstorm on December 1, 1951, the Golden Gate Bridge was retrofitted in 1954 with horizontal diagonal bracing between the bottom edges of the vertical deck trusses. This makes the deck much harder to twist, which is felt by the visitor in this comparison of pre- and post-retrofit bridge decks.

1-6 | 7-12 | 13-18 | 19-24 | 25-30 | 31-36


Funding for the project has been provided by the Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings, National Science Foundation. Dr. Al DeSena is the NSF project officer for this award. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

All images are the property of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District and cannot be re-used without its permission. Contact Mary Currie, Public Affairs Director,

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Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering
last updated 05.27.14