Chris Burden: Extreme Measures: "Mexican Bridge"

New Museum
Dec 4, 2013 11:37PM

Mexican Bridge consists of serpentine reverse arches. This bridge is a model of a cast-iron bridge designed in the 1860s (but never built) for the fledgling Mexican railroad system to span the thousand-foot-wide Metlac Gorge.

For five years, I periodically studied the drawing of the bridge (illustrated on page thirty-four of Railroads in Mexico). The illustration of this elegant, sensuous bridge mesmerized me, and I found great pleasure in entertaining the idea that it might be possible to build a giant-scale reproduction of this bridge using Meccano and Erector parts.

Before I attempted the design and construction of this model, I designed and built ¼ Ton Bridge out of Meccano and Erector parts. ¼ Ton Bridge was initially designed to simply hold my own body weight. But, upon completion, I discovered that this five-pound structure could in fact hold five hundred pounds, or a quarter ton—hence its name. With the successful completion of ¼ Ton Bridge, I had the confidence to undertake translating the drawing of the Metlac Gorge Bridge into a fifteen-foot-long accurate Meccano/Erector model.

Because the actual bridge was never built, I would like to believe the English bridge designer, William Fairbairn, would be pleased to see his design finally realized in a three-dimensional form.

—Chris Burden, 1998

Photo: Benoit Pailley

New Museum