THROUGH THE ENGINEER'S LENS

 

BACKGROUND 

I remembered whispering a simple prayer, “God, if you allow, I would like to build a bridge like this one day.”  It was a beautiful early morning in June 1996 on Treasure Island. That memory of watching the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time as the sun rays beaming on its towers was so vivid and memorable.  As an international student coming from Indonesia and attending the University of Alabama at Birmingham, I decided to major in Civil Engineering, eagerly hoping to build such a bridge one day. After college commencement in June 1998, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area - lived on Treasure Island - to work and further my education in Engineering and Project Management at UC Berkeley’s Masters Program. A decade later, in June 2006, my dream came to a reality when I received an offer from an engineering firm to join Caltrans and work on the Self-Anchored Suspension (SAS) for the new East span Bay Bridge. I began working on this project since January 2007 and, since I lived on Treasure Island, I joked to my friends that I am building a bridge to my house. Now I am passionate about building a bridge; and I like taking photographs.

 

PHOTOGRAPHY

My interest in photography began during my freshman year in college when I worked in dark room developing photos for Kaleidoscope, the University’s newspaper. Soon I bought my first SLR camera, a Pentax P30, and began taking pictures of activities around campus for Kaleidoscope. I carried this hobby along to my first, second and third jobs out of college. I documented the progress of construction of the AirTrain at San Francisco International Airport (completed in Mar. 2003), St. Regis Museum Tower in San Francisco (completed in Nov. 2005), Bogard SRRA (completed in Nov. 2006), and now the SAS Bridge (completed in Sept. 2013). I realized that construction and photography complement each other – like peanut butter and jelly. I enjoy watching the construction crews toiling days and nights in their bright safety vest and dusty hard hats and taking their pictures.

Now a father of two young children, I often reflect that my job is similar to a parent watching the baby grows up until they mature, get married, and finally have their own families. During the process, I do not want to miss any important moments. I want to be there when they first start walking, when they cry and laugh. With this in mind, I am determined to be there and capture the moments and all important milestones, even without being asked. I climbed the catwalk to the top of the tower and went inside the bowels of the deck to capture the progress of the work. So you will see photos of the OBG deck being erected at early dawn before sunrise or the tower shafts erection late at night because it was the time when it was happening. And for the camera, I bought my first digital SLR camera, Canon 10D in 2004, and upgraded this camera to Canon 5D Mark II in 2008 to capture the construction of the Bay Bridge. I have been using this camera to collect roughly over 50,000 photographs of the fabrication and construction of the SAS to date.

 

CLOSING REMARKS

I am very grateful to work on this marvelous project with stellar engineers and to witness the construction of this bridge, from its inception and its fabrication at the ZPMC Facility in Shanghai to now when the bridge takes shape to completion. Despite numerous negative articles written about this bridge, the bridge is a testament to great engineering works and it serves the motorists crossing the Bay Bridge with a stronger and safer span and awe them with its beauty. Just like that boy watching the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time in June 1996, I hope this bridge and these construction pictures will inspire young engineers to dream big, to work and study hard, and to trust in God. To see the construction pictures years later will bring back good memories to those who make this happen. It is certainly a very rewarding, once in a lifetime experience - more than what a mere engineer could ask for.

Martin on the SAS Cable

sas.mep@gmail.com

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