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Projects : Golden Gate Bridge Exhibit

Golden Gate Bridge Outdoor Exhibition


Deck Aerodynamics

Wind blowing across (transversely to) the deck of a suspension bridge can make it begin to twist – a very undesirable type of structural response. This exhibit mounts two similar scale-model bridge decks next to each other. One is aerodynamically superior to the other in subtle ways that make it stable in the breeze. The other noticeably twists. The Golden Gate Bridge has been extensively studied analytically and in wind tunnel testing to evaluate its wind performance.

STATUS: Exhibit currently on display on the East Battery Trail.

[read more about this exhibit]

John Raggett of West Wind Laboratory takes wind measurements to determine optimal placement of this exhibit.
Early sketch of a model of a cross section of a bridge deck. Two models with different deck shapes would be displayed. One based on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which collapsed in strong winds; and the other model based on reinforced, and more stable deck design.
Prototypes were developed and brought to th e Golden Gate Bridge visitor area for testing and visitor feedback. The design of the orange model was similar to the deck of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Visitor input was solicited and gathered by an evaluation team to determine the effectiveness of the exhibit. Feedback was used to improve the design.
An early version of the signage for this exhibit that was used when gathering visitor feedback.

Note: One early consensus was that the blueprint drawing was too confusing.

Newer, lighter designs were modeled in wood and tested at the West Wind Laboratory before final fabrication in metal.
Drawing shows revised layout for new model designs.
The exhibit as currently installed on site.

Note: although originally designed to match the other orange exhibit stands, the green paint was a requirement by the NPS for any displays in this area.

Video clip showing the Bridge Deck models

Note: the one shown in the foreground represents the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, cross-section of deck. The other representing a modern aerodynamically designed bridge.

MPEG : 42 MB

Total time: 1:12

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