The Forth Bridge’s Outstanding Universal Value
The successful nomination of the Forth Bridge as a World Heritage Site made this statement in support of its outstanding universal value.
The Forth Bridge is a globally important triumph of engineering, at once structural and aesthetic. Linking the eastern Scottish railway network across the Forth estuary, or firth, it represents the pinnacle of 19th-century bridge construction and is without doubt the world’s greatest cantilever trussed bridge.
When opened in 1890, it had the longest bridge spans in the world, a record held for 27 years. No other trussed bridge approaches its perfect balance of structural elegance and strength, nor its overall scale, and no bridge is so distinctive from others as is the Forth Bridge from its peers.
Superlative in its application of novel technologies, the Forth Bridge used and influenced engineering know-how that has become international in scope. The bridge continues to act as a vital transport artery and shows in an exemplary way how a historic bridge can be sensitively managed to meet modern needs.
Painted ‘Forth Bridge red’, a task famously set into folklore as endless, this icon of Scotland perfectly encapsulates 19th century belief in mankind’s ultimate ability to overcome any obstacle: the impossible could indeed be made possible.
Justification for criteria under which inscription is proposed: Criterion (i): represents a masterpiece of human creative genius The bridge is an aesthetic triumph in its avoidance of decoration and yet an achievement of tremendous grace for something so solid. Its steel-built cantilever design represents a unique level of new human creative genius in conquering a scale and depth of natural barrier that had never before been overcome by man.
Criterion (ii): exhibits an important interchange of human values on developments in architecture and technology The Forth Bridge was a crucible for the application to civil engineering of new design principles and new construction methods. It was at that time the most-visited and best-documented construction project in the world. It therefore exerted great influence on civil engineering practice the world-over and is an icon to engineers world-wide.
Criterion (iv): an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history The Forth Bridge represents a significant stage in human history, namely the revolution in transport and communications. The railway age, of which it is a potent symbol, was made possible by, and influenced the speed and connectivity of, the industrial revolution. The bridge forms a unique milestone in the evolution of bridge and other steel construction, is innovative in its design, its concept, its materials and in its enormous scale. It marks a landmark event in the application of science to architecture that went on to profoundly influence mankind in ways not limited to bridge-building.