Bridges are the lifeblood of cities. They bring people and goods into towns, sustaining the vital center. But bridges are also a major engineering feat, and towering works of beauty. Here are some of the world's most inspirational bridges.
Széchenyi Chain Bridge, Budapest, Hungary
The first permanent bridge across the Danube in Budapest connects the two sides of the Hungarian capital city, the hilly Buda and the flat Pest. Designed by William Tierney Clark in 1839 as a bigger version of the British Marlow Bridge. Opened in 1849, and at the time its center span of 663 ft (202 m) was one of the largest in the world.
Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy
This Medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge connects the two sides of Florence — and still has shops built along it. In the Middle Ages it was occupied by butchers, but now there are souvenir shops and jewellers. The bridge was first built in Roman times, but was destroyed by a flood in the early 12th century. It was rebuilt two times, 1117 and 1345. It was the only Florentian bridge that wasn't destroyed by the Germans in WWII, and perhaps it was spared on Hitler's orders.
Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge, China
The world's longest bridge is a 102.4 mi (164.8 km) long viaduct on the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway, in the Yangtze River Delta. Its construction took four years and cost about $8.5 billion. Opened in 2011.
(illustration via China Travel Depot)
Sydney Harbour Bridge, "The Coat Hanger", Sydney, Australia
The iconic, 3,770 ft (1,149 m) long bridge across Sydney Harbour carries trains, motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians. Designed and built by Dorman Long and Co. Ltd between 1923 and 1932.
Millau Viaduct, near Millau, France
The tallest bridge in the world (1,125 ft or 343 m) was designed by Michel Virlogeux and the world-famous Norman Foster in 2001, opened in 2004. The cable-stayed Millau Viaduct has the highest pylon (803 ft 8 in or 244.96 m) in the world and the highest road bridge deck in Europe with its 890 ft (270 m) height.
Hartland Bridge, Hartland, New Brunswick, Canada
It consists of seven small Howe Truss (wood) bridges joined together on six concrete piers. The Hartland Bridge has been the world's longest covered bridge (1,282 feet or 391 m) since its opening in 1901. Before the locals added a pedestrian walkway to the bridge in 1945, there was a really interesting custom: couples stopped half-way across to share a kiss. Now, some locals believe it's good luck to hold your breath the entire way across.
(via Techno Marvels)
The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California
A visionary engineer named Joseph Strauss spent more than a decade to drumming up support in the state before he started to design the 8,981 ft (2,737.4 m) long Golden Gate Bridge with Irwing Morrow and senior engineer Charles Alton Ellis. The construction began on 5 January 1933 and ended four years later in April 1937.
The bridge has 1.2 million steel rivets and hung from two cables, which are made of 27,572 strands of wire.
Göltzsch Viaduct, Netzschkau, Saxony, Germany
The largest brick bridge in the world was built between 1846 and 1851 using more than 26 million bricks. Brick was a really unusual choice, but it was cost-efficient because there are giant loam fields in the vicinity.
A Caravan Bridge (often called Sarnic) in Izmir, Turkey
This is the oldest single-arch bridge still used in the world – it was built around 850 B.C, and was crossed by Homer and Saint Paul.
(via Library Of Congress)
Gateshead Millenium Bridge or the "Blinking Eye Bridge", connecting Gateshead and Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
The uncommon tilt bridge spanning the River Tyne was designed and conceived by Wilkinson Eyre and Gifford. It was lifted and placed in one piece by the Asian Hercules II, one of the world's largest floating cranes. The bridge has six hydraulic rams that can rotate the bridge back to allow small ships and boats to pass underneath in 4.5 minutes.
(via Flickr/Duncan C)
Tower Bridge, London, UK
Construction started in 1886 and ended in 1894, and was designed by Sir Horace Jones, London's City Architect and Sir John Wolfe Barry, his engineer. The two massive piers containing more than 70,000 tons of concrete. Jones died in 1887, so another architect named George D. Stevenson took over the project and replaced the brick facade with a Victorian Gothic styled one. The 800 feet (244 m) long Tower Bridge has two equal bascules, which can be raised to almost a quadrant (86 degrees) with an electro-hydraulic system (before 1974 there was a pressurised water-powered mechanism with hydraulic accumulators and steam engines).
(via Wikimedia Commons/Diliff)
Sunniberg Bridge, Klosters, Switzerland
The extradosed cable-stayed road bridge near Klosters was designed by Christian Menn and was completed in 1998.
Khaju Bridge, Isfahan, Iran
This Persian construction with 23 arches was built by Shah Abbas II around 1650, and functioning as a bridge, a weir and a place for public meetings.
Sri Wawasan Bridge, Putrajaya, Malaysia
The sail ship-like bridge is a combination of cable backstays and steel-tie back. Designed and constructed by Perbadanan Putrajaya and opened in 2003.
Chengyang Wind and Rain Bridge, Sanjian County, China
The 211 ft (64.4 m) long thing is a combination of a bridge, corridor, five Chinese pavilions and 19 verandas. The piers are made of stone, but the other parts are mainly wooden. Looks like hundreds of years old, but it's opened only in 1912.