Miguel Rosales has more than 14 years of experience in urban design and bridge architecture. He was the lead architect and urban designer on Boston's Charles River Bridge, and is currently the lead architect on several major U.S. bridge projects. Miguel is a principal and senior designer with Rosales Gottemoeller & Associates, a transportation architecture and engineering firm based in Boston, Massachusetts, and Columbia, Maryland.
Check out a bridge that Miguel worked on: Charles River Bridge, Boston, Massahcusetts
You're an architect who works on bridge design. What projects are you
working on right now?
What exactly do you do as an architect working on bridge design?
For example, in St. Louis, they wanted to make the new bridge a very prominent part of the neighborhood where it's going to cross because it's a depressed area. They want to use the bridge as a catalyst for redevelopment. So I interact with them on that.
And once we have come to a conceptual design, then the structural drawings are completed by an engineering company that does most of the construction detailing.
Do you make the preliminary drawings?
I also work on the architectural detailing in the final design phases. For example, the lighting is often very important because a lot of bridges want to be featured at night. So I work on the aesthetic lighting, how they are going to be lit. I also work on a lot of the more architectural type of details, like railings and signage. More and more people want to have these type of details in bridges.
Before, bridges used to be very standardized. You just take a standard from a book and apply it, and nobody really thinks if it's appropriate or if it's going to match the structure or not. And nowadays, there is this idea of trying to make it more comprehensive, with a style and kind of a family shape, so the whole system comes together. So then you have to do special detailing for the bridges; I get involved in that. And then the construction starts, and I review the drawings. Usually the term of involvement is many years.
How long does it take on average from beginning concept to completion?
When you're coming up with an initial concept for a bridge, what are the
things that you're looking for?
The other aspect I'm very interested in is the proportions and the cultural value of the structure. And that is very important to me. That's why I make a lot of 3-D drawings and models and computer drawings, to try to really see how the bridge is going to appear when it's built.
And that's one thing that a lot of engineers have difficulty imagining, because they are not trained in three dimensions. A lot of their work is only in plans and sections and elevations. Some people, I think, don't understand that bridges can be attractive and well proportioned. They are used to seeing so much ugliness everywhere.
If you travel between here and California by car, 90 percent of the bridges are unattractive. So people cannot imagine that they can be good-looking. It's kind of hard to understand that. But there are choices to be made, and you just have to think about those considerations. That's something that I try to introduce into the design, in addition to resolving the functional and structural requirements of the crossing.
Do you actually meet with community members? Do you hold public meetings or that sort of thing?
What do you like most about your work?
Where are you from originally?
So that's one aspect. The other aspect I like is that whatever I do is going to last hundreds of years. I mean, the bridge here in Boston is supposed to last 150 years. And that's a long time. So I feel like if I am able to make a difference or make a change, it will be a lasting project, and it will be there for a long, long time. And it can either be a big asset or it can be a big problem. And if I can be part of making it a big asset, I get a lot of satisfaction out of that.
A bridge lasts a long time, especially if it's well designed. People will want to preserve it. And that's something that is definitely a trend in the U.S. Like all the unsightly bridges, bridges that people don't care about, they demolish them right away. A problem comes or they need to repair it, it's more easy to demolish. But when a bridge is very attractive and people are attached to it, they keep it. They keep repairing it; they keep preserving it. So I think that's telling about what kind of importance a bridge can have in a city or a community.
I asked you before what you liked most about your work. I'm wondering
what you like least about it.
Sometimes it's hard because the projects last a long time; it's not an immediate reward. And you have to be patient, so sometimes it gets frustrating, because you think that you've got to a point and then you stop or it's changed again or you have to bring another group into the formula to try to make a solution. So I would say that sometimes it's difficult because of the long-term commitment. Sometimes I see friends of mine that are architects go and do an interior, and then in six months, it's finished.
You have to wait much longer.
When did you know you wanted to be an architect, and how did you get into
To me, it was very important to have a result. I always wanted to have some result at the end of the day of what I was doing. And bridges are so important. Going in that direction, I thought, was very good for me.
What advice would you have for a young person who wants to pursue a
career in architecture or engineering?
I'm also interested in helping people make their life better. And I believe that whatever I try to do is related to that. If you're interested in people, improving their life in some way, I think that would be helpful, too.