This model consists of approximately 40,000 pieces.
About this creation
The Golden Gate Bridge is a 1.7 mile suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate Strait between the San Francisco Peninsula and Marin County in Northern California. Carrying both US Route 101 and California State Route 1, the bridge is considered one of the greatest feats of engineering in history and has been declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Not only is the Golden Gate Bridge one of the most uniquely designed suspension bridges, it also one of the top ten most-visited landmarks in the United States and is arguably the most well-known and most photographed bridge in the world.
This is my fifty-first landmark model as well as my first standalone model of a bridge. Not only was the design approach for this model vastly different than anything in my body of work up until this point, it is also the most accurately translated of all my models, in terms of structural design, in comparison to the real-world landmark. This level of authenticity was paramount to the design, as I am also receiving course credit toward my BARCH degree at Illinois Institute of Technology for this model. Before the start of my final semester this past January, I successfully petitioned to have the design/build process count toward an independent study in addition to my Long Span Structures class, under the direction of prolific structural engineer, Professor Dr. Mahjoub Elnimeiri. In many ways, I see this model as the final piece to completing my education as well as the first of the next fifty landmarks yet to be added to my ever-growing exhibit.
The Golden Gate Bridge was constructed between 1933 and 1937, shortly after the onset of The Great Depression and at the same time as the nearby San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The idea for spanning the Golden Gate at that time had long since been thought of as impossible due to environmental factors such as strong currents, frequently intense wind and blinding, recurrent fogs. It wasn't until engineer Joseph Strauss submitted plans to San Francisco's City Engineer for a proposed baschule-suspension bridge hybrid, that the concept became remotely viable. After much debate over the hulking original proposal, Strauss was brought on to the project as Chief Engineer on the condition that the design be altered according to input from a number of consulting project experts.
Despite his position as Chief Engineer, Strauss had little experience or understanding of suspension bridge designs. As a result, much of the project's formidable engineering and architectural design prowess fell to other experts, such as Leon Moisseiff, who had previously designed New York City's Manhattan Bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge, however, was conceived of as a two-main-cable suspension bridge, supported by two 746-ft towers and anchored by the weight of massive concrete anchorages on either end of the full span.
Stretching from the San Francisco Peninsula (foreground; south) to the rugged and mountainous terrain of Marin County (background) to the north, the entire bridge measures 8,981 ft in length. The main span stretches a vast 4,200 ft; longer than any suspension bridge in the world at the time, until it was surpassed in 1964 by a mere sixty feet by the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York City.
The US Navy was actively involved in the design process of the Golden Gate Bridge alongside the architects and engineers. The road deck is situated 220 ft above the water below, allowing enough clearance for both civilian and military vessels.
At the tip of the San Francisco Peninsula is a civil war era fort known as Fort Point. Principal Engineer Charles Alton Ellis designed the arched “bridge within a bridge” spanning over the fort, which allowed for the preservation of this historic landmark. The main cables of the primary span pass between the structural members of the arch bridge, and are anchored within the massive concrete anchorage that precedes the arch.
The bridge was built in three distinct phases. The first, was the construction of the two 746 ft towers. The north tower was built firmly on bedrock, while the south tower (pictured here) is situated 1,100 ft offshore from the San Francisco Peninsula. In order to construct the tower, a pier had to be built over the water to provide access to the necessary location. This pier was partially destroyed by inclement weather on two separate occasions, yet the overall progress on construction was not delayed.
The second phase comprised the laying of the two main cables over the entire span. The main cables of the bridge are both 7,650 ft in length and consist of 27,572 individual cables bundled together into 36 in diameter main cables. The combined length of all the cables is roughly 80,000 miles; enough to wrap around the earth more than three times.
The third and final phase was the construction of the road deck, one section at a time, moving outward in both directions from each tower, until the two ends of the main span were connected together, resulting in an upward camber which makes the road deck at mid-span several feet higher than at the two ends of the bridge. The road deck is ninety feet wide and carries six lanes of traffic; three in each direction.
The two towers and their art deco motifs were designed by project consultant Irving Morrow, who also designed most of the ornamental elements of the bridge, such as the streetlights and railings. While the navy initially argued for a color scheme of black and yellow striping, this idea was heavily criticized by the designers and city officials. In the end, the bridge was painted a unique color mixture known as international orange, allowing the bridge to strike a visual contrast with the surrounding landscape, while also providing greater visibility in the frequent covers of dense fog. This color is still regularly reapplied today.
From the start, I knew the most immediate design challenge for the model would be how to span the six-and-a-half foot distance between the two towers. If five years of architecture studies have taught me anything, it's that a model should strive to portray a visual and functional harmony that is authentic in both its spatial presence and structural nature. Therefore, the only possibility that remained was to employ actual cable suspension; to carry the weight of the road deck in the same way the real bridge does. This effected every design decision throughout the entire model.
The two main cables consist of numerous ten-stud lengths of red flex tube, over which hundreds of both new and old technic bush elements are placed back-to-back. The variation of bush elements allows for the vertical suspender cables to be placed between the narrower ridges of the old bushes, ensuring increased stability between the main cables and road deck. The main cables are then strung into two continuous lengths with two 12-ft 16-guage steel wires running through the center of the flex tubes. The vertical suspender cables are also non-LEGO® as they are made up of more than 200 ft of 0.8mm nylon macramé cord. As always, I do not modify or glue any LEGO® elements. That being said, however, it would not be possible to make an authentic translation of this landmark at 1:650 scale in any modeling medium without these added imperatives.
The anchorages on either end of the model behave in the same way as their real-world counterparts, acting as anchors for the tensile forces running through the main cables. Within each anchorage, the steel wires wrap around technic spools and are tightened using the gear on the outside of the anchorage. As I added the weight of the road deck when I was building the model, I was constantly adjusting the overall tension within each of the anchorages to allow for the proper camber of the road deck. You can see an interior view of how this system functions within the south anchorage on my Instagram.
I have to admit, the mountainous terrain of the section of Marin County was one of the most difficult and time-consuming aspects of this entire project. It's one thing to convincingly replicate a man-made structure, but it is another thing entirely to do so in harmony with a natural landscape. One of my main challenges was to use exposed studs to portray the less rocky, more earthen terrain of the mountain alongside the north span, but at a similarly angled increment as the slopes used for the rugged cliff face just behind the north tower. In the end, I inverted more than a hundred 2x2x3 dark tan slope bricks and angled them inward so that the sloped faces became the vertical, shear wall of the side of the model pictured here. This required a technique internally that was inspired by real-world slurry wall construction. This technique can also be seen on my Instagram.
A view looking south from the north end of the model shows the increase in height of the road deck.
The road deck in the model had to be constructed as lightly as possible, while still capturing the essence and presence of the structural trusses. I ended up building the road deck in 16-stud increments, based on the 1x16 lattice support beams. The entire road deck is built inverted, using 52 1x16 lattice supports, more than 900 red grill tiles, over 400 tap elements and 1x1 round flower plates, all topped by nearly 500 1x2 red hinge tops and 2x2 black inverted tiles.
The model is situated on fourteen 32x32 baseplates, making it approximately twelve feet long! Needless to say, this is, by far, the longest model I have heretofore built, and at more than 40,000 pieces, uses more elements than any single model in my exhibit by a margin of roughly 17,500 pieces.
A view of the south end shows the gear used to tighten the cable connections at the San Francisco anchorage.
A final look at the model in IIT's Crown Hall, the only nearby space I could manage to set up all twelve feet of this bridge with enough room to take pictures!
love it want one love San Francisco and the golden gate bridge in lego is amazing I'm surprised that lego haven't made a mini one for lego architecture love it you should do the San Francisco Bay Bridge ❤
Amazing. The attention to detail here is mind boggling. I can see dozens of places where you could have taken a "shortcut" that would have simplified the build, but it looks like you invariably opted for the more difficult, more accurate solution.
I know that you build incredible buildings, BUT what is this? A 12' Structure! That is it, we need a bigger showroom. I am very proud of you, great job on a great Landmark. I am worried about your next 50? We better get a airport hangar. Congratulations.
Quoting Jeremy McCreary
I've seen this bridge from almost every angle, and you nailed it -- and the Marin terrain as well! Great write-up, too. My favorite book on the bridge is _Spanning the Gate_. Have you seen it?
Thank you Jeremy! I've had "Spanning the Gate" on loan from my university's library for a couple months now and just ordered my own copy on Amazon! It really is a great book.
Superb, Rocco! I can vouch for the fidelity of this model: When I lived in Sausalito, CA, I drove the bridge several days a week and paddled my ocean kayak beneath it several times a month. Frequent hikes and bike rides in the Marin headlands and the Presidio on the SF side afforded views from above, from the footings, and from the ocean side. I've also walked the bridge and visited Fort Point nearly a dozen times. In short, I've seen this bridge from almost every angle, and you nailed it -- and the Marin terrain as well! Great write-up, too. My favorite book on the bridge is _Spanning the Gate_. Have you seen it?