Zakim Bridge Architect Explores its Link to Eiffel Tower

May 17, 2018
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While 3,435 miles and the Atlantic Ocean stand between Paris and Boston, the two cities share a common bond in that each are defined by an iconic, architectural landmark as Beacon Hill architect Miguel Rosales will discuss in his upcoming lecture,  “The Eiffel Tower and the Zakim Bridge: Landmarks of Structural Art,” at the French Cultural Center on May 30.

“I want to compare the two structures and the roles that they have played in the two different cities,” said Rosales, the president and founder of the Boston firm Rosales + Partners and architect behind the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge. “I’m interested in exploring how a structure can become a symbol of a city.”

Named for French engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower, the 1,063-foot, wrought-iron, truss tower on the Champ-de-Mars was constructed as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair. It originally only had a 20-year permit and was slated to be dismantled in 1909, but the tower received a permanent reprieve due to its usefulness as a communications transmitter. It has since been used to broadcast radio and television signals, and to date, the Eiffel Tower has attracted more than 250 million visitors to become the most visited, paid tourist-attraction worldwide.

As for Rosales, he was immediately impressed by the Eiffel Tower’s grand scale upon first visiting it at age 14, and he hadn’t visited the landmark for several years until he retuned there last week in preparation for his upcoming lecture.

“It’ll be really interesting to go back after so many years and learn more about the tower and its enduring appeal,” Rosales said in anticipation of his trip. “I want to see it again to refresh my memory before the lecture.”

During his previous visits to Paris, Rosales admits he had no idea that the Zakim Bridge would become as inextricably linked with Boston’s identity as Eiffel Tower has with Paris.

In the early ‘90s, as part of the Central Artery/Tunnel Project, Secretary of Transportation Frederick Salvucci endorsed Rosales’s idea to build a cable-stayed bridge over the Charles River allowing him to focus his attention to designing an aesthetically pleasing crossing. He was named lead architect for the bridge in 1992 and continued to spearhead the project for the rest of the decade.

Rosales took the novel approach of building a cable-supported bridge with tall towers – a decision that would eventually help transform the once gritty area around the sports arena then known as the Boston Garden into a vibrant city neighborhood.

“Every bridge is different,” Rosales said. “Every bridge design should respond to the context and surroundings, so that it fits well. If you create a special design, a bridge can become part of a city’s culture and image.”

The French Cultural Center at 53 Marlborough St. presents “The Eiffel Tower and the Zakim Bridge: Landmarks of Structural Art” on Wednesday, May 30, from 6 to 8 p.m.

Admission is $25 for French Cultural Center and $35 for non-members. Visit www.frenchculturalcenter.org to purchase tickets and for more information.

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