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Othmar H. Ammann Memorial Plaque Print E-mail
Verrazano-Narrows Bridge
The design of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge had to take into account the curvature of the earth's surface due to its unprecedented size.
Othmar Hermann Ammann (1879-1965) was a Swiss-born structural engineer responsible for designing many of New York City's long-span bridges. To mark the hundredth anniversary of the birth of this eminent member of ASCE, at the request of the Metropolitan Section, the Society's Board of Direction voted to honor the memory of Othmar H. Ammann with a memorial at its October 1978 meeting in Chicago. A bronze plaque would be placed at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, his last and greatest work.

The plaque, which includes a memorial statement and a bas-relief bust of Othmar H. Ammann, was affixed to the historical marble monument located at the Staten Island approach to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at the northeast corner of the intersection of Lily Pond Avenue and Major Avenue. It was unveiled in an unforgettable ceremony on June 28, 1979. Among those in attendance was Ammann's daughter, Dr. Margot Ammann Durrer, a prominent physician practicing in New York City, who officially unveiled the plaque. After her father's death, Dr. Ammann took upon the task of chronicling and archiving his work. This included the translation of over 400 letters written in German to his parents and friends in Switzerland.

The plaque was presented to the Honorable Harold L. Fisher, Chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), and George Schoepfer, Executive Officer and Chief Engineer of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA) by Joseph Ward, President-Elect of the ASCE. George Schoepfer conducted the program which consisted of addresses and remarks of representatives of the MTA, ASCE, and the Met Section in praise of O.H. Ammann and his many accomplishments in the New York City area. The ceremony was well attended by many friends and admirers of Othmar Ammann, public officials, ASCE members, and MTA staff.

Unveiling the O.H. Ammann Plaque
George Schoepfer, Joseph Ward, Emile-Henry Bovay (Office of the Swiss Consul), Dr. Margot Ammann Durrer, Pierre-Yves Simonin (Office of the Swiss Embassy), and Harold Fisher unveil the plaque at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Born in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, Othmar H. Ammann came to America in 1904 after studying at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, and became a United States citizen in 1924. He was responsible for the design of six prominent bridges in New York City, which include the:

Except for the steel arch design of the Bayonne Bridge, all of his other structures are suspension bridges. While working at the Port of New York Authority, he was also involved with the planning and construction of the Goethals Bridge, Lincoln Tunnel, and Outerbridge Crossing. Before his starting his career at the Port Authority, Ammann designed a number of bridges for the Buffalo & Susquehanna Railroad, helped draft plans for the Manhattan Bridge, assisted with the plans and calculations for the Queensboro Bridge, wrote an investigative report on the Quebec Bridge disaster. From 1912-1923, he served as the chief assistant to Gustav Lindenthal during the design of the Hell Gate Bridge and the proposed railroad/highway bridge across the Hudson River at 57th Street. After working for the Port Authority, he partnered with Charles Whitney in 1946 to form the consulting firm of Ammann & Whitney and was involved with the design of the Delaware Memorial Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, and Mackinac Bridge while working as a consulting engineer.

Throgs Neck Bridge
The Throgs Neck Bridge across the East River serves as an important link on the interstate highway system between the Bronx and Queens.

Ammann served as a Director of the ASCE Metropolitan Section from 1932-1934 and was elected as an Honorary Member of ASCE in 1953. He received the Thomas Fitch Rowland Prize from ASCE in 1919, was named the Metropolitan Section Civil Engineer of the Year in 1958, and received the Ernest E. Howard Award from ASCE in 1960. A bronze bust of Ammann was unveiled in the George Washington Bridge Bus Station in 1962, coinciding with the dedication of the lower level of the George Washington Bridge. A few months before his death, Othmar Ammann was presented with the National Medal of Science by President Lyndon Johnson in a ceremony the White House. He was the first civil engineer to receive this prestigious award.

In 2000, Six Bridges: The Legacy of Othmar H. Ammann was published by the Yale University Press. The 224-page book by Darl Rastorfer provides a biography of Othmar Ammann, describes the history of his prominent bridges in New York City, and includes many photographs.