Aesthetic Realism and the Beauty of the Brooklyn Bridge

Keywords: Brooklyn Bridge, David McCullough, Aesthetic Realism, Eli Siegel, John A. Roebling, Washington Roebling, Emily Warren Roebling, Opposites, Hart Crane, Joseph Stella.


This article is about one of the world’s most
celebrated structures — the Brooklyn Bridge:
what makes it beautiful, and why it has been
loved by millions of people.
It is based on this landmark principle,
stated by Eli Siegel — poet, critic, and founder
of the philosophy Aesthetic Realism:
“All beauty is a making one of opposites,
and the making one of opposites is what
we are going after in ourselves.”
Beginning with the effect of this bridge
on such artists and poets as Joseph Stella
and Hart Crane, it then describes each step
of the design and construction
of this magnificent structure, showing how
the making one of opposites — Power
and Grace, Heaviness and Lightness, Firmness
and Flexibility, Simplicity and Complexity —
is what makes it a great work of both
engineering and art. For example, in Bridges
and Their Builders, Steinman and Watson write:
“The pierced granite towers, the graceful arc
of the main cables, the gossamer network
of lighter cables, and the arched line
of the roadway combine to produce a matchless
composition, expressing the harmonious union
of power and grace”.
Doesn’t every person want to be at once
strong and graceful? The authors describe
how, as people are affected by the beautiful sensible relation of opposing forces working
together for one purpose in the Brooklyn
Bridge, they feel more hopeful that these same
opposites can make sense in their own lives.