Portland Bridges Story

The initial concept for creating the “Portland Bridges” was in 1980; was to honor Portland’s Willamette River bridges and those who built them.  Growing up in the Portland area in the 1950-60s the Willamette River and the Columbia were the core ingredient that made Portland “Portland.”  When I returned here in 1973 after college I was struck how few people even noticed the bridges as they crossed the river.  The daily and the occasional user did not seam to notice that they were, though not listed as such, part of our cities most public of public arts programs.  Many did not see it, at the time, but the bridges of Portland are the art forms across our river.

Portland has become known as “the city of bridges” as well as “the city of roses.”  Its movable bridge portfolio is celebrated at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.   Portland’s Willamette River bridges are the best urban collection of movable and non-movable bridge types in the world.

In 1973 I began my quest to produce art based on the Willamette river bridges with the hope that it would help fellow Portlanders appreciate them for both their engineering and visual qualities, as well as for their contributions as art, architecture and growth.  The first Portland Bridges design was started in 1982 and was published in 1989.  It took time to do the research on all the bridges, develop the art and compile the technical data. It was balancing act to find a form that was both aesthetically pleasing and technically accurate.  

I produced this piece in honor of all our Bridges, the Willamette River and the many individuals from the public and private sectors who have contributed to making them possible and Portland one of the most livable cites, “Bridge Cities,” in America.   In 2015 I will proudly add Portland’s two newest bridges to the piece of living history I have been working on since 1982.  The TriMet Transit Pedestrian Bridge the ”Tilikum Crossing” and the new “Sellwood Bridge” will both be welcome additions to Portland’s unique and rich urban bridge legacy.

Errol M. Beard

The art of structure / expose yourself to art™

May 2015