Posted by on Jun 10, 2013 in Featured, Secret History |

“without over exaggerating the point, the significance of reinforced concrete is that modern society is not possible without it… that’s why we talk about it being the foundation of civilization.”

In Episode 81 of 99% Invisible, Roman Mars explores the hidden history of the Alvord Lake Bridge in San Francisco and the technological link it represents between the past and contemporary construction.

The bridge is at once an eyesore, an accidental monument to failure and a 125 year old example of the technology that swallowed the guilded age and made our contemporary cities possible.

Perhaps more interesting is the parallel story of Ernest Ransome and his quest to perfect steel reenforced concrete, whose value was dramtically demonstrated in both a massive fire and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, but not before Ransome himself had left California in frustration, incapable of overcoming broad skepticism and resistance to his ideas.