Rialto Bridge in Venice:
The Weird and Wonderful World of Bridges
The history of bridges would be a boring one, if I was to lay it out for you. I can imagine the story going something like this;
was the year 3308. Of course, they didn’t call it that back then, it
was just "3 years after our Ahab was born!" A village had realized
that, the grass was indeed greener on the other side. However the other
side in this case just happened to be split by a river. They were
baffled; "How can we get over there?" one asked. Weeks of thought later
and finally a young man who had decided to leave his elders to their
thoughts went down to the lake to test out a theory. Taking his axe
with him he felled a tree, and let it fall directly across the river.
He walked across, and back again, firm in the knowledge that his
village’s future was secure."
not the world’s most thrilling tale of beginnings, nothing like what
I’m sure the tale belonging to the theft of fire would be like. But
since I’ve been able to successfully entertain you safely past the
beginning of this article, I will endeavor to hold your attention by
showing you through some of the most interesting bridges that have come
across my monitor. And no, they won’t all be the heights of
technological engineering, but simply those that have captured the
imagination in various ways throughout time.
San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge:
"Stari Most" (Old Bridge) – Fascinating History
first bridge on my list is a biased choice, and may not have originally
made anyone else’s list of favored bridges. However with my mother a
missionary in the area of Mostar, Bosnia, I had to pick this bridge for its meaning to me. However the bridge itself has a whole host of its own history.
by Herzegovinian Croat Catholic militia during the War in
Bosnia-Herzegovina, on November 9, 1993 at 10.15 am, the bridge spans
the Neretva River in the old town of Mostar. Stari Most thus provided
the fourth largest city in the country with its name.
Most is a hump—backed bridge, 4 meters in width and 30 in length, and
towers above the river at a height of 24 meters at its highest point.
The Helebija tower on the northeast and the Tara tower on the southwest
are known as the mostari, or "the bridge keepers".
Most was commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1557 to replace an
older wooden suspension bridge. Construction began in 1557 and took
nine years to complete and, according to the inscription the bridge,
was completed in 974 AH, which corresponds to the period between July
19, 1566 and July 7, 1567.
if you’re interested, the bridge often entertains young men willing to
dive in to the chilly water below. An interesting native practice that
dates back to the origin of the bridge itself.
Getting ready to dive:
Gateshead Millennium Bridge
Spanning the River Tyne in England
between Gateshead on the south bank and Newcastle-upon-Tyne on the
north, the next bridge in our journey was another of the projects
commissioned for the turn of the Millennium. It is a pedestrian and
cycle bridge, instead of a stereotypical automobile bridge, and its
design provided designers Wilkinson Eyre (a high-profile architecture
firm) with the 2002 Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
special about this bridge is its ability to allow boats and other water
traffic to move underneath it, despite being relatively low to the
surface of the river. Mini hydraulic rams on each side of the bridge
tilt it back on special pivots, lifting the bridge out of the way of
those attempting to go underneath. This move has lent the bridge a new
nickname, the Blinking Eye Bridge.
is how this bridge was put in place: manufactured a few miles down the
river and transported upriver by the "Asian Hercules" (Rotterdam)
This is the only bridge that "loves you" back 🙂
The Longest Arch Bridge – Lupu Bridge
The Lupu Bridge is currently the longest arch bridge in the world, stretching a massive 550 meters across the Huangpu River, China.
Along with being a record holder ("The bridge’s arch is longer than the
previous record holder, the 518-metre long New River Gorge Bridge in
West Virginia"), the bridge is also the center point for a lot of local
need for a bridging between the Luwan District on the north bank, and
Pudong New District on the south bank was agreed by all, but that was
where the agreement stopped. The exorbitant cost of the Lupu Bridge was
frowned upon by locals and scholars, but chosen by the disgraced mayor
Chen Liangyu as it would set the area apart with a world record bridge.
The critics use this bridge as an argument to prove the city officials
superficiality, when weighed against the needs of its people.
Construction of the Lupu Bridge:
shot of Chinese breathtaking bridge construction: this time showing
suspension bridge over Jiangyin Yangtze River – cable construction with
preformed parallel wire strands (PPWS) technique:
Hangzhou Bay Bridge, China
This bridge, recently completed, is the world’s longest trans-oceanic bridge,
stretching across Hangzhou Bay off the eastern coast of China.
Connecting the municipalities of Shanghai and Ningbo in Zhejiang
province, it was linked at 3pm on June the 14th, 2007.
in at 36 kilometers long, and with six expressway lanes makes it the
second longest bridge in the world, with only the Lake Pontchartrain
Causeway in Louisiana, USA beating it out.
of the bridges that seem to be a wasteful choice of bridge, it seems as
though the Chinese government are making great architectural decisions,
but are failing to consider what their people actually want.
Nevertheless, designed to last 100 years, the Hangzhou Bay Bridge will
be open to the public some time in 2008.
Great Belt Fixed Link
The last on my list of bridges, this bridge is the fixed link between the Danish islands of Zealand and Funen
across the Great Belt. It consists of a suspension bridge that makes up
the road on top, as well as a box girder bridge between Sprogø and
Funen. Between Zealand and the islet Sprogø there is also a railway
tunnel that runs beneath the road.
up of two bridges the Eastern suspension bridge is 6,790 metres (22,277
ft) long with a free span of 1,624 metres (5,328 ft), making it the
world’s second largest suspension bridge. The Western box girder bridge
is 6,611 metres (21,690 ft) long, and has a vertical clearance for
ships of 18 metres (59 ft). The Western Bridge is essentially two
bridges though, with the rail component making up one bridge, and the
road component the other. The only factor keeping them as “one” is the
fact that their foundations are the same below the sea level.
More fun with bridges:
Fascinating Abandoned (Ruined) Bridge
Kinzua Viaduct in McKean County, Pennsylvania:
the world’s highest and longest rail viaduct bridge (the center towers
were about 300 feet tall when standing) was toppled by extremely strong
winds – a possible tornado – in 2003… The ruins tell the story:
Bridges as Art
out this is absolutely absurd, creative installation in the heart of
Russia: "The Half-Bridge of Hope" – more pictures and info here.
"The Most Unusual Photograph of a Bridge Award"
This honor goes to Carl Madson, for this angle of Golden Gate bridge:
See if you can identify this structure:
Our life is but a bridge, interrupted
philosophical statement out of the way, allow me to introduce you to
the most fascinating and soaring examples in bridge architecture – the
structures that can be considered a destination in themselves, not just
a means to get from point A to point B.
1. Historic "La Pont Du Gard" Bridge
name literally means "Bridge across the river", which only serves to
prove that this is THE bridge among all bridges. Built sometime around
20 B.C. by the Roman Empire in the South of France, this is one of the
most ancient, and possibly the most beautiful of all Roman-built
aqueducts. Pont du Gard crosses the Gardon Valley and reaches 49 meters
in height, measuring 280 meters in length.
Every huge block of
stone (some of which weigh up to 6 tones) was carved to perfectly fit
in its place, making this grandiose structure a marvel of masonry &
engineering. A number of writers celebrated this bridge in their works,
including Jean-Jacques Rousseau in "Confessions". Numerous
inscriptions, some ancient Roman in origin, cover the stones, making
the whole site a historian’s and photographer’s paradise.
From the most ancient, to the most futuristic –
2. Soaring Bridges of Santiago Calatrava
is one the most sought-after bridge architects today. His works are
dynamic, reflecting our modern age. They also possess the uplifting
harmony of sweeping curves and intricate shapes. His Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay
is an interestingly shaped, somewhat futuristic bridge (which doubles
as a sun-dial). It was recently built near Redding, California.
Calatrava also applied his soaring, spread-wings style to the footbridge at Milwaukee Art Museum:
Although nothing really comes close to the City of Arts and Sciences that he designed for Valencia, Spain – the culmination of his highly elegant style.
Salvador del Saz has an awesome set of photographs of the building and the bridge leading to it:
3. Double Spiral Bridge in Japan
The Kawazu-Nanadaru Loop Bridge
consists of two spirals, each 1.1 km long, 80-meter in diameter – the
only way for traffic to get down the mountainside into the valley, too
steep for any other usual road-building solutions. The busy Route 414
serves the weekend crowd from Tokyo, intent to wind down at the hot
springs resort of the Izu Peninsula. The "winding down" bit obviously
starts at this bridge. Built in 1981, the double-spiral structure
demands careful driving – the speed limit on the bridge is only 30
km/h, which also helps to better enjoy the views.
4. Nanpu Bridge with a spiral approach
spiral skyway graces the approach to the Nanpu Bridge over the Huangpu
River, located at the South Dock in Shanghai, China. Drivers are
allowed to go only clockwise… no, just kidding.
The longest bridge in the world is oficially Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in Louisiana, which is essentially just a stretch of highway. The following structure is a bit more interesting:
5. The Longest Bridge-Tunnel Combination: Oresund Bridge
This longest combined road and rail bridge in Europe connects Denmark
and Sweden across the Oresund strait. The artificial island itself is 4
km long. Shortly after being built, there were fears that not enough
people are going to use it, but as it turned out, Danes were buying
less expensive houses in Sweden and commuting to work in Denmark, and
the construction costs of close to 30.1 billion are expected to be paid
off in 2035.
Also a bridge-tunnel combo, but smaller, is Merrimack/Monitor Memorial Bridge-Tunnel on Hampton-Chesapeake Interstate 664:
6. The Bosphorus Bridge – connecting 2 continents
grand-looking bridge spans the Bosphoruc Strait in Istanbul, Turkey.
Interestingly, it also has a twin: a similar bridge located just down
7. The Hanging Bridge of Bilbao, Spain
in 19th century, in a year of 1893, it introduced truly revolutionary
combination of 150-meter long steel bridge and a hanging gondola,
moving across the river. Similar structures were built after its
example, but only a few remain in existence today in the world. The
43-meter towers present an imposing view over the city:
Another interesting bridge concept: a footbridge with counter-balancing weights:
The "bridge-to-nowhere" illusion, seen in Norway:
A few other interesting (and beautiful) bridges:
Stonebridge in Regensburg, Germany:
Freedom Bridge, Budapest, Hungary:
JK bridge across Paranoa Lake, in Brazil:
Newport Pell Bridge, Newport, Rhode Island:
Conwy Suspension Bridge in the medieval town of Conwy, North Wales:
The Tsing Ma Bridge, Hong Kong:
Strange bridge in Victoria, Canada: Johnson Street Bridge.
Spiral bridge-link between two buildings, over Floral Street in London:
And our traditional mystery bridge:
Futuristic Arctic Bridge
Underwater tubular super-structure, imagined in Russia way back in the 50s and described by Alexander Kazantzev in his sf novel.
Harrowing Hanging Bridges
the most amount of thrills you can get for free in this world, try to
drive across some of the following structures, if not on your car, then
on your bike. This is what many locals often have to do, in absence of
any other ways to get across.
Historic Hagwilget Bridge in British Columbia, Canada
The first foot bridge looked positively frightening:
The second bridge across the river had quite an interesting engineering approach:
(image from 1916 book "Bridge Engineering" by H.G. Tyrrell)
second and third bridges are visible in this photo. It is also possible
that both were true road bridges – imagine driving your car across that!
Vjose River Bridge Experience
of the hanging bridges can be quite daunting not only to set your feet
on, but even to look at. Roberto Ferri sent us these pictures, taken in
Southern Albania, ten miles north from the Greek border. Both bridges
shown here require a bit of work and a prayer to get across:
Finally, feast your eyes (and nerves) on –
The Worst Bridge in the World