The Strait of Messina is a funnel-shaped strait that connects the Ionian Sea to the south with the Tyrrhenian Sea to the north. Its width varies from a maximum of approximately 16 km to a minimum of approximately 3 km. In 1969, the Ministry of Public Works opened an international ideas competition for a design for the construction of a road and rail crossing. 143 projects were presented and Sergio Musmeci's was awarded one of the 6 first prizes.
A Bridge on the Messina Strait: the longest span in the world
The following text was the original one, with which Domus presented his design to readers in 1971.
A few months ago, the bridge plans were handed over to the contracting company for their analysis. If built, it will become the longest span in the world.One of the winning entries to the International competition promoted in Italy for a Rail and motoway connection through the Strait and the Continent is this bridge spanning three kilometers (that means, more than twice the largest exixting span, that of the New York Giovanni da Verrazano bridge, 1.298m; the Golden Gate span is 1.280 m).
Sergio Musmeci's design for the Messina Strait bridgeThis design, by Roman engineer Sergio Musmeci, is one of six winners (out of 143 participants) of the international ideas competition organized by ANAS [the Italian road and highway agency] and by the FS [national railroads] for the construction of a road and railway link between Messina and Reggio Calabria on (or in) the Strait of Messina. Musmeci's project-which would allow Italy to create a work of architecture and engineering that is unique in the world-is well described by the author.
"The Strait of Messina road and railway crossing can be considered either a maritime problem or, alternatively, a long span problem (3,000 m). Our proposal stems from the belief that the second issue allows solutions that are more manageable technically, and thus economically because it is unencumbered by the many uncertainties posed by any work at sea such as strong currents, deep and unstable seabeds, as well as limited geotechnical knowledge. All these problems are exacerbated when taking into account the area's strong seismicity.
The proposed structure is a suspension bridge; the hauling cables stabilize it very effectively in relation to wind and seismic action. The studies and experience already conducted on this type of structure ensure the project's technical and economic feasibility. But there are reasons that go beyond both technology and economy, understood in the strictest sense, and which encourage us to accept the challenge offered by the entire 3 km span. There are reasons tied to general policy, social psychology, and civic and cultural commitment. The bridge across the Strait should be viewed as an avant-garde project that must be addressed with vision, determination and courage, because, at the dawn of the year 2000, it is a unique opportunity to stimulate the resourcefulness of the nation's great achievements in the construction field and to qualify its ranking among the populations of advanced technological civilization.
The project includes two large highway lanes that are 15 meters wide each for a total of eight lanes, two of which are emergency lanes; and two railroad tracks with a maximum 10% gradient. The high-grade steel towers (Type TI) will rise on the edge between the sea and the two shores; their plan is a three-pointed star and will be accessible by elevator. [...]
This was the intention that inspired the project. Today we must invent the future, imbuing it with that harmony between reason and nature which is the most precious legacy left to us by classical civilization.