Who Designed the Golden Gate Bridge?

Statue of Joseph Strauss near the Golden Gate Bridge. Editorial credit: Blanscape / Shutterstock.com

The Golden Gate Bridge is a phenomenal structure built on the Golden Gate strait that connects the city of San Francisco to Marin County in California. Built between 1933 and 1937, the bridge is known for its distinctive red (not gold!) coloring. The designer of the Golden Gate Bridge was John Strauss. However, he had help from many other engineers who were consultants during the project, including George Swain, Charles Ellis, and Leon Moissef, among others. 

The Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge is 746 feet high and spans across the 400-foot-deep strait of the Golden Gate. Today, it exists as an engineering marvel listed as one of the Seven Wonders of California as well as the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. The Golden Gate Bridge is considered one of the world's most famous bridges.

The Search For A Designer

The government of San Francisco had received incessant public calls for the city to establish a connection with its neighbors who inhabited areas located across the Golden Gate. The first time that a proposal was put forth about such a bridge was in a Marin County Board of Supervisors in 1872. In 1919, Engineer O’Shaugnessey was assigned the task of finding a designer who would be able to construct the bridge at an affordable cost.

A long search led the engineer to Joseph Strauss, who was an engineer based in Chicago, Illinois. Strauss was convinced that he would need about $25-$30 million to construct the bridge. Having reached consensus with the team in charge of the construction in San Francisco, Strauss presented architectural designs for the planned structure in 1921. He also visited the communities that lived in the north of San Francisco to assure them that the construction of the bridge would be beneficial to both parties.

Thus, the building of the Golden Gate Bridge officially started through the passing of the Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District Act of California in May 1923. In 1929, George Swain and Leon Moissef switched the style of the bridge from the initially proposed hybrid design to the current suspension bridge design. Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge began in January 1933 and lasted until April 1937.

The Designer of the Golden Gate Bridge – Joseph Strauss

Strauss was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on January 1870. His mother was a pianist whereas the father was both a writer and painter. Strauss loved poetry, and it seemed as if it would be the path to a lifelong career. However, he was unable to pursue it and instead went to pursue economics and commerce at the University of Cincinnati.

While at the university, he pursued many interests, including football which did not go as well as he had hoped. However, in the course of his studies, Strauss got an opportunity to see the Cincinnati-Covington Bridge, which had just been completed. He was so amazed at the beauty and architectural work showcased by the bridge that he developed a deep fascination with bridges.

Eventually, he worked as an engineer at the Lassig Bridge and Iron Works Company as well as the Ralph Modjeski Firm among many other companies. In 1892, Strauss submitted a proposal to construct a railroad bridge across the Bering Strait, but it was rejected. In 1904, Strauss pioneered the Strauss Engineering Corporation which was involved in the construction of about 400 bridges across the United States. It is in 1919 while working at his company that O’Shaughnessy approached Strauss about the building of the Golden Gate Bridge.


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