Saturday, September 16, 2017

Bridges, Progress, and Preservation

Salazar Bridge, another bridge on the Tagus River in Lisbon, Portugal

I think that whenever a new bridge is built, the world becomes smaller. We should build bridges in the world. We should overcome all abysses. We should shorten trails. I’m all for bridges. ‘Bridge’ means ‘progress.’ ‘Bridge’ means ‘a step forward.’ Of course, we can’t build bridges such that we then have to sleep underneath them. That’s another problem: the problem of organizing the world — a world with bridges over all the abysses that still exist, but a world that does not thereby become less luminous or less human. 

Every time a bridge is built, the world is modified a bit. I think that if it were one day possible to build a bridge between heaven and hell — and it would be a wondrous thing if that were to happen — heaven would no longer be heaven, and hell would no longer be hell. 

I think all of these changes should be planned with foresight and caution. It’s clear that this great bridge [the future Vasco da Gama Bridge in Lisbon, Portugal] on the two banks of the Tagus will prompt an outflow of millions of people from the south bank. And all of this region’s localities will be profoundly altered. Change is a given. No one can avoid it. Nonetheless, change can be either for the better or for the worse. It’s clear that if this project is left to chance, or to the caprices of the builders, or to the greed of businessmen, or to the chance of gamblers, we can be sure that the change will be for the worse. 

But if our landscapers, our planners, and our ecologists are conscious of the fact that this bridge will create new landscapes, then, yes, the bridge will be a change for the bettter. This is what I mean when I urge you, ‘Please, don’t let them ruin Alcochete.’ I’m not only referring to the Alcochete we just visited. I’m referring to all the lands that the bridges of the world are connecting. I’m referring to the patrimony that has already been built. I’m referring to the beauty that already exists. We must make sure that indispensable innovations are not made in such a way that they destroy the things that already fill us with delight. 

— Prof. José Hermano Saraiva in “Não deixem estragar Alcochete” [“Don’t allow Alcochete to be ruined”], a 1996 episode of his sublime television series “Horizontes da Memória” [“Horizons of Memory”] 

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