Le Pont d'Avignon


(Feature photo: Le Pont d’Avignon by Charles Greenhough via Wikimedia.)

I just returned from a relaxing vacation in Southern France, near Avignon. You may have heard of this place because of an old bridge which is notable for (1) only spanning half of the river, and (2) being the subject of a children's song. I had never given much thought to why the bridge only goes halfway across. I just assumed they ran out of money or maybe it was bombed during the war. The actual story is far more interesting.

Turns out that the surviving structure is not half the bridge, but just four out of an original 22 arches spanning the Rhone River channel. A series of 20th century flood control projects have tamed the river and much of the channel has been filled in. So the river we see today looks much different than the Rhone of the Renaissance period, when the bridge was in use. After touring the bridge (and dancing with the kids to the tune of Sur le Pont d'Avignon) I enjoyed the air conditioning in a gallery devoted to a recently completed 3d visualization project.

A group of engineers, archaeologists, and historians all worked with a 3d graphics firm to create a digital model of the full bridge, and a flyover animation to provide a sense for what it would have been like to cross it. This is a great example of how visual thinking can help promote collaboration between technical experts, and the finished presentation is a great way to share the story with tourists. If you happen to speak French, check out this video for more information about the project.

I also enjoyed spending a few days in Paris, and am happy to share a few snapshots from the visit.


Joshua Cohen is a Principal at Fat Pencil Studio