THE SINGING BRIDGE

(Vangelis, eat your heart out)

New, perforated railings have been installed on the Golden Gate Bridge, and when the wind passes through them they wail. According to the engineers, the haunting polyphonic tone was addressed during the review process and was considered an inevitable aspect of the design, although I don’t think they expected it to be quite so deafening, and audible from miles away.

An unintended architectural consequence brings me a strange sort of glee. I now feel about the bridge the same way I feel about the high-rise in London that melts cars, and this malfunctioning emergency alert siren in Chicago. I am firmly believe that place is a sixth sense, and that settings-as-concept have a profound influence on perception and memory. An unexpected effect elevates a place into liminality, demanding our attention in startling and fortuitous ways. Places like this are unplanned Rube Goldberg machines of the elements. There is a spontaneous and terrifying joy about that: that we can’t out-engineer nature, that humans will always build beautiful and flawed things, that anything can be music.

Personally, I hope they never revise it. The next time I make it to San Francisco I’d love to visit the wave organ and hear its new accompaniment.