Gold: The Pont des Arts Entry and Photograph by: Jessica Betz

 

Originally built between 1802-1804 under the reign of Napoleon I, the Pont des Arts was the first metal bridge in Paris. In 1975 it was declared a national historic monument, however it suffered major structural damage during both World War I and World War II, and eventually collapsed in 1979 after a barge rammed into it. The present day bridge was built between 1981-1984 and is a nearly identical reconstruction. In 1991 it was listed as part of the Parisian riverfront UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Today the pedestrian bridge links the Louvre with the south bank of the Seine river, and since 2008 tourists have been attaching padlocks, or “love locks” to the railings of the bridge. However, by 2015 authorities warned that the bridge was suffering from structural damage with parts of it beginning to collapse under the nearly 45 tons of extra weight created by the padlocks. So in May of 2015, just a few months before I was to embark on a new path as a preservationist, I decided to attach a piece of ribbon with padlocks drawn on it instead of the traditional padlock.

Three days later, after I had left the city and headed south, I saw on the news that French authorities had stepped in and were removing all the locks from the bridge.

Engineers: Louis-Alexandre de Cessart and Jacques Lecroix-Dillon, 1801; Reconstruction: Louis Arretche, 1981-1984

Location: Paris, France