Jorge Galindo Díaz, Architect, PhD, Associate Professor, School of Architecture and Urbanism, Universidad Nacional de Colombia
Jairo Andrés Paredes López, Civil Engineer, MSc, Associate Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, Universidad Nacional de Colombia
Currently, few people doubt that historical structures constitute a valuable reflection of a national heritage and cultural identity that help to confirm strong ties between a nation’s past and its present. In many regions of South America, brick-arch bridges constructed during the long period between the end of Colonial times and the dawn of Republican life are an inheritance of a millenary tradition, some valuable examples are still standing and in service.
Unfortunately, in Colombia, studies related to these types of constructions have been rare; although it is possible to find some type of articles  or monographs  about a given historical bridge, there are almost no works in which architectural values, engineering properties, or structural analysis are objects of discussion .
The research supporting this article concerned the genesis, the state of conservation, and the modes of behaviour under different types of loads of over twenty brick-arch bridges located in the geographic region of Alto Cauca (which encompasses the current departments of Cauca and Valle del Cauca). These bridges were built in the 18th and 19th centuries under the direction of local construction foremen and artisans trained in the construction trade. Given their singular character and to explore the technical peculiarities affecting these bridges throughout their history and in their current condition, the first part of this document briefly describes their origins and the elements that traditionally constitute them. The second part of the paper discusses the most important factors that give rise to visibly detectable damage, which may ultimately affect the structural stability of these bridges.
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