This deeply 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. (Read the first part here)
The 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.
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.
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:
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.
Similar 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 officially 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:
This grand-looking bridge spans the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, Turkey. Interestingly, it also has a twin: a similar bridge located just down the Strait.
7. The Hanging Bridge of Bilbao, Spain
Built 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:
Spiral bridge-link between two buildings, over Floral Street in London:
And our traditional mystery bridge:
UPDATE: Colsh says: "The mystery bridge is the Skye bridge connecting the Isle of Skye to mainland Scotland. I believe at one time the most expensive toll bridge in the world (per kilometer)."
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
For 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:
(photo courtesy BC Archives Collection)
The second bridge across the river had quite an interesting engineering approach: (image from 1916 book "Bridge Engineering" by H.G. Tyrrell)
The 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!
(photo courtesy BC Archives Collection)
Vjose River Bridge Experience
Some 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:
(images credit: Roberto Ferri)
Crossing the Hussaini Bridge in Pakistan. The mountains in the background are called the Passu Cathedral:
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