‘Lean’ and ‘elegant’ are not the usual text-book civil engineering terms, but these words do evoke the poetic tradition in road engineering texts.
When the first high speed roads for the Cape Town foreshore were proposed by City Engineer Solomon Morris in 1951 they included a plan to depress part of a ring road across Government Avenue.
“The bridges will be sympathetically designed in keeping with their sylvan setting…Indeed there is no reason why these proposals, if effectively carried out, should not enhance rather than detract from the beauty of the gardens and the Avenue promenade.
The new vistas and the additional interest created by the difference of level, as well as the movement of traffic below the level of the gardens, will all help to enliven the scene, adding a touch of activity to the peaceful beauty of the surroundings.
One may well imagine the pleasurable contemplation with which the passer-by through the Avenue will, from the quest seclusion of his elevation, gaze undisturbedly on the swift-moving traffic below.”
Planning, as Throgmorton has so memorably argued, is the art of persuasive story-telling. And as we can see from the texts it produces, engineering will try to persuade using whatever means have the most power: numbers, graphics, models, presentations and even, if required, poetry.