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Bridging Urban America: The Story of Master Engineer Ralph Modjeski   cover photo

Bridging Urban America: The Story of Master Engineer Ralph Modjeski 2016


Distributed by Bridging Urban America
Produced by Basia and Leonard Myszynski
Directed by Basia and Leonard Myszynski
DVD , color, 88 min.

Middle School - General Adult
Biography, Engineering, Transportation, Urban Areas, Bridges

Date Entered: 02/03/2017

Reviewed by Barbara J. Walter, Longmont Public Library, Longmont, CO

Director/Producer team Basia and Leonard Myszynski (Modjeska – Woman Triumphant (2009) draw well-deserved attention to the life and accomplishments of one of the 20th century’s most influential engineers, and remind viewers of the critical role infrastructure plays in the life and health of a modern nation.

With archival stills and film clips the Myszynkis map out Modjeski’s early life and influences, explaining why this Polish-born immigrant, whose musical gift and training should have led to a career as a concert pianist, chose instead to enroll in the l’Ecole des Ponts et Chausées in Paris, graduating first in his class.

Using film shot on location--including some breathtaking aerial footage--as well as historical footage, interviews with engineers and Modjeski descendants, Bridging Urban America testifies to the beauty and utility of his designs, the breadth and depth of his genius as an engineer, entrepreneur and innovator.

From 1896 to 1936 Modjeski designed and built over 40 bridges spanning rivers in North America, most of which are still in use today. Bridging Urban America details the construction of five of his most iconic projects: the San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge, Philadelphia’s Ben Franklin Bridge, the Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit with Windsor, Ontario; New Orleans’ Huey P. Long Bridge, and the longest cantilevered bridge in the world, the Quebec in Canada.

Solid in all technical elements, Bridging Urban America is a fine choice for academic libraries supporting programs in civil engineering; it also deserves a place in public library collections for its engaging account of Modjeski’s life as well as its timely reminder of “…the importance of infrastructure to a nation’s economy, culture and sense of self-worth.” (Prof. Henry Petroski, Duke University-- quoted at

Chaptered, in English.