Bridges are perhaps the most important regional infrastructure components when it comes to their utility. They connect islands with the mainland, enable trade and make traffic possible even across wide gaps, which make them a symbol of connection and sharing between people of different nations and cultures. The European Union has even included them as a prominent theme of the graphic design of its official currency, the Euro, acknowledging the significance of bridges in Europe and their peaceful legacy. But bridges can also be a real architectural work-of-art, like these ten beautiful examples from around the globe.
1. Ponte Vecchio Bridge, Italy
This amazing bridge crosses the Arno river in Florence and is one of the oldest, perhaps most beautiful, bridges in the world. It is also one of the most visited spots in Florence, a city packed with medieval heritage. Ponte Vecchio is built completely out of stone, which replaced the original wooden structure after a flood in 1333. It is believed that the bridge was first built in ancient Roman times. The houses on top of the bridge hosted famous shops for butchers and art dealers; lately, the shops have become souvenir stalls for the countless number of tourists that visit.
2. The Wind and Rain Bridge, China
The peaceful looking Chengyang Bridge, as it is originally named, is a famous example of the Dong minority architecture. It is in fact a combination of a covered bridge, a veranda, a Chinese pavilion, and a corridor. The bridge itself is made of stone, but the three-storey buildings and handrails are wooden. Busy with traffic even today, this bridge links two big villages, one on each side of the river. The bridge is unfortunately a modern replica built in 1964 after the wooden parts of the original were consumed in a fire in 1959.
3. The Oresund Bridge, Sweden-Denmark
The Oresund Bridge is the longest rail and road bridge in Europe, connecting Sweden and Denmark. It was built in the year 2000 as a joint venture of both states to construct a simple, modern and very practical piece of architecture. It is actually a combined bridge-tunnel, running from the Danish city of Denmark, across the Oresund strait through the Drogden Tunnel, to the metropolitan area of Sweden’s Malmo. The tunnel runs beneath the sea bed to enable a clear passage for ships and planes from the nearby airport. The toughest reinforced concrete segments in the world were used for the construction of the tunnel, each weighing an astounding 55,000 tons. You can cross the bridge in a train for only 9 Euros.
4. The Rolling Bridge, UK
The unique design of this small pedestrian bridge has won many awards. It is part of the development project at Paddington Basin in London and is the only curling-type bridge in the world. To allow passage for ships, this intriguing metal bridge rises using hydraulic cylinders built into triangular blocks and folds itself into a ball, or more precisely an octagonal shape. It curls its 12 metres every Friday at noon.
5. X-Shaped Oliveira Bridge, Brazil
Located in Sao Paolo, Brazil, the Oliveira Bridge is a modern structure built in 2008 to enable two curved roads to pass across each other over a river. It is the only bridge of its kind to support this kind of track architecture with a single concrete mass. In December, the city lights it up to resemble a Christmas tree.
6. Aiola Island Bridge (Murinsel), Austria
The Murinsel, as it is called by the locals, is a floating artificial platform in the middle of the Mur river in Graz, Austria. Vito Acconci, a famous New York artist, designed the bridge to celebrate the city being named the European Capital of Culture in 2003. The platform resembles a seashell connected by two pedestrian bridges from each bank. It serves as an amphitheatre with 350 seats and also has a cafe and playground.
7. Millau Viaduct, France
The tallest bridge in the world, the Millau Viaduct, stretches across the Tarn Valley at a breathtaking height of 1,125 ft near the city of Milau. It is supported by seven great concrete pylons and is 8,071 ft long. Driving a car under the 285 ft tall masts, you’ll feel like you’re flying, especially with the common fog in the valley.
8. Banpo Fountain Bridge, South Korea
The Banpo Bridge in Seoul went through a major reconstruction in 2008, which gave the up-to-then big, but ordinary bridge a defining feature. The bridge was given a Guinness World Record for the world’s longest bridge fountain, with 10,000 nozzles illuminated by LED lights. The fountain, which is more than a kilometre long, pumps water from the river below and shoots out around 190 tons of water per minute. The Banpo bridge has two decks, with the lower one closing every time the river rises to a dangerous level.
9. Gateshead Millenium Bridge, UK
This tilt bridge, which means that the bridge can rotate—or tilt—around fixed endpoints, is built in Newcastle upon Tyne in England. The curved shape of the bridge enables small ships and boats to pass underneath it, with the bridge rotated up by 40 degrees. It takes only four and a half minutes to rotate the bridge using six 18-inch hydraulic arms. Given its curved shape, the award-winning bridge is intended for pedestrians and cyclists only.
10. Henderson Waves Bridge, Singapore
118 ft high and 899 ft long, the Henderson Waves Bridge amazes all with a distinctive wave-like design. The structure is made of a series of undulating curved steel ribs that alternately rise over and swoop under its deck and serve as alcoves to shelter the pedestrians at the wave’s high points. This footbridge is the tallest in Singapore and connects two parks within the city limits. It is illuminated with LED lights at night to further accentuate the bridge’s uncommon design.