The bridges along the Merritt Parkway and the Wilbur Cross Parkway are a fine example of one man's imagination, George Dunkleberger, chief designer with the Connecticut Department of Highways at the time, drew inspiration both from history and the spirit of the times. Each bridge is treated as a separate unit or horizontal building, if you will, resembling anything from medieval bridges to stage sets, or futuristic gates to other-worldly cities and kingdoms. He was also well aware of the importance of fitting the highway and its various edifices in to the landscape, and was a driving force behind the idea of preserving the natural appearance of the locality in which the bridges were situated, rather than creating an artificial environment out of harmony with what already existed. "For instance, in low, flat country, the design should typify the character of the landscape, perhaps by horizontal lines; in rolling country, by the addition of a few verticals; and on rough terrain, a combination of the two with neither predominating, I am sure, would result in a pleasing structure. Of course, we find rough country at times where the use of verticals only would be satisfactory. Also, in a flat landscape, the project could be strictly functional as to appearance, allowing the structural members to do the work ordinarily accomplished by some embellishment."
The sensitivity and perseverance through such a wide-ranging project is evident in the variety of designs that Dunkleberger realized, Even today, when the landscape around the bridges has grown considerably from its original plantings, each design seems to hold up extraordinarily well, despite the fact that so many details are lost, especially on the wing walls. Evidence of such hidden detail can be observed in the antique photographs of certain bridges when available, contrasting with the bridges' present day condition, Also included in this section are the original drawings of the final bridge design when the given structure is particularly interesting. The spare line employed here lays bare the purity and wit of the designs, with nothing extraneous intruding upon the realization of the structure.
It is also interesting to note that as the Parkways were built, proceeding from Greenwich to Meridan and the Second World War commenced, the designs became exceedingly less elaborate, with cleaner lines and the absence of many materials caused by wartime shortages are evident, such as reflector materials and steel for ornamentation. When now we travel this bucolic road, made all the more pleasurable by the planned naturalistic hill and dale, this taken for granted fantasy land makes driving an experience akin to going to the theatre or the movies, for surely this is a dramatic escapade, made all the more pleasurable by the singularly distinctive designs that sprang forth from the pen and intelligence of George Dunkleberger. He has left us with a legacy that stretches across the State of Connecticut, a mark as exclusive as a fingerprint upon the landscape. Man and nature here exist in harmony with each other. This sensitive handling of materials and means can only hope to be repeated in the future.Click here to go back to the home page