The Golden Gate Bridge
Is Art Deco

Joe Loscalzo


Golden Gate Bridge, view from The Presidio
Golden Gate Bridge,
view from The Presidio.

Golden Gate Bridge, south tower with lamp

Much has been written about the worlds' most visited bridge but tourist and locals may not realize that it is one of the finest if not the best example of Art Deco. I know most would say that Rockefeller Center is the best expression but Art Deco is an exacting cultural or artistic style; it is what the 1920 and '30s looked like. It is a style that marks the bold transition to modern America. Art Deco is all about machines, mass-production, metal and concrete; structures characterized by sharp angles and the use of newly developed materials in concert with innovative engineering. This is what the Golden Bridge is all about. Look carefully at these close up pictures of the bridge:

Golden Gate Bridge Roadway LampsGolden Gate Bridge Lamp & Concret Structure
• The road way’s bridge lights
• The design of all the concrete structures
• The patterns or relief motifs of the bridge towers.
These specific parts and the overall design of the Bridge reflect geometric patterns and optical simplicity (no matter how complex the actual creation) that are the spirit of elegance, refinement and sophistication.
Golden Gate Bridge concrete structures

Click here for a photo essay of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Before or after visiting the Bridge, the best vantage points to view the Bridge: Lands End on the north cliffs of Lincoln Park, you can see the location and how to get to the area clearly at:
Another excellent vantage point (a local favorite) is from Fort Point that is almost under the bridge; also great vistas are easily accessible from the Marina or Crissy Field. Go to:

Facts and Statistics

Golden Gate Bridge with Skyline

The Golden Gate Bridge is painted orange vermilion or more precisely International Orange. Golden Gate refers to the Golden Gate Strait, the entrance to the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific not the Bridge itself. Consulting Architect Irving Morrow chose orange vermilion because it blends with the Golden Gate's topography. Painting the Golden Gate Bridge is constant and the primary maintenance job of the Bridge Authority. This essential maintenance protects it from the high salt content of the Pacific winds that rusts and corrodes most metals. By 1965, the Bridge Authority began replacing the original paint with an inorganic zinc silicate primer and acrylic emulsion topcoat; this was completed in 1995, however the Bridge constantly requires routine painting.

Golden Gate Bridge opened to traffic on May 28, 1937. Pedestrians first walked on the bridge on May 27.
Golden Gate Bridge, from Baker Beach
The Bridge's vital statistics (length, width, height, weight)

Total length including approaches: 1.7 miles or 8,981 ft or 2,737 m

Length of suspension span including main span and side spans: 1.2 miles or 6,450 ft or 1,966 m

Length of main span portion of suspended structure (between towers): 4,200 ft or 1,280 m

Length of one side span: 1,125 ft or 343 m

Width: 90 ft or 27 m

Roadway width: 62 ft or 19 m

Sidewalk: width 10 ft or 3 m

Total weight of each anchorage: 60,000 tons or 54,400,000 kg

Original combined weight of Bridge, anchorages, and approaches: 894,500 tons or 811,500,000 kg

Total weight of Bridge, anchorages, and approaches (1937): 894,500 tons or 811,500,000 kg

Total weight of Bridge, anchorages, and approaches (1986)*: 887,000 tons or 804,700,00 kg

Live load capacity per lineal foot: 4,000 lbs. or 1,814.4 kg

The specifications of the two main towers that support the two main cables

Height of tower above water: 746 ft or 227 m (Imagine a 70 plus story building rising from surface of the bay.)

Height of tower above roadway: 500 ft or 152 m
Tower base dimension (each leg): 33 x 54 ft or 10 x 16 m

Load on each tower from main cables: 61,500 tons or 56,000,000 kg

Weight of each tower: 44,000 tons or 40,200,000 kg

Transverse deflection of Towers: 12.5 inches or 0.32 m

Longitudinal deflection of towers shoreward: 22 in or 0.56 m channel ward: 18 in or 0.46 m

The South tower foundation depth below mean low water is: 110 ft or 34m

The Bridge has two main cables that pass over the topes of the two main towers and are secured at either end in giant anchorages.

The main cables rest on top of the towers in huge steel castings called saddles.

Diameter of one main cable with wrapping: 36 3/8 in. or .92 m
Length of one main cable: 7,650 ft or 2,332 m

Design and Construction

Many dedicated workers and professionals who created this world-renowned structure including the 14 workers that lost their lives at the construction site are honored at the Bridge. Those most prominent are: Joseph B. Strauss, Chief Engineer of the Golden Gate Bridge, Charles A. Ellis and Clifford E. Paine who assisted, O. H. Ammann, Charles Derleth, Jr. and Leon S. Moisseiff, consulting engineers; and, consulting architect Irving F. Morrow and his wife Gertrude C. Morrow.

Time line of some major improvements:

1973-1976: The suspender ropes were replaced at a cost of $9 million in District funds.

1980-1982: The San Francisco and Marin approaches to the Bridge were retrofitted to increase earthquake resistance.

1982-1986: The original concrete deck and its support were replaced with an orhotropic deck. The new design is both lighter, stronger and hopefully will last longer. The roadway became wider by two feet resulting in outside lane widths of 11 feet, up from 10 feet. The four inside lanes remain 10 feet wide.

1986-1987: Bridge tower lighting was installed.

1993-1994: 6,557 lineal feet of west side pedestrian railing was replaced with an exact replica at a cost of $1.3 million.

1997: The first phase of seismic retrofit construction on the north approach to the Golden Gate Bridge was completed in September 2001.

2001: The second phase of seismic retrofit construction began on the South approach and Ft. Point sections of the Golden Gate Bridge.