Of Bridges, Old and New: Iconic bridges around the world

It’s all about crossing the bridges.

A UNIQUE bridge in Vietnam, with the “hands of god” (stone-colored gigantic hands made of steel mesh and fibreglass) holding it up, has caught the attention of the world. Ever since it opened in June, Cau Vang or the Golden Bridge has attracted scores of tourists owing to its stunning architecture. At 3,280 ft above sea level, the Golden Bridge is located in Ba Na Hills, a popular hill destination in central Vietnam. The architectural firm that designed it says it is meant to evoke an image of “giant hands of God, pulling a strip of gold out of the land”.

For ages, the bridges of the world have been bearing the weight of inquisitive travellers, darting from one end to the other — to experience the visual appeal, design expertise or sheer engineering brilliance from up close. We look at some iconic bridges from the old world and the new, and what has turned these manmade wonders into cultural and historic landmarks:

Rialto Bridge, Venice, Italy

The Rialto Bridge, or Ponte di Rialto, is the oldest of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal in Venice. Completed in 1591, it replaced a wooden bridge that collapsed in 1524. The engineering was considered so audacious at the time that architect Vincenzo Scamozzi predicted future ruin. But the bridge has defied its critics to become one of the architectural icons of Venice and is always packed with tourists. In Robert Browning’s 1855 poem A Toccata of Galuppi’s, it was referred to as Shylock’s bridge. In the poem, the narrator, who has never been out of England, is picturing life in 18th-century Venice through Italian composer Baldassare Galuppi’s music.

Golden Gate, San Francisco, US

No story about bridges of the world cannot feature the Golden Gate. It is arguably the most recognisable bridge in the world. The 90-year-old took four years and $35 million to build, and when it opened it 1937, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. One of the most visited and photographed tourist sites, the Golden Gate Bridge is, unfortunately, the second-most frequent suicide site in the world (after the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge in China). It is said most jumpers die of the trauma of the fall from 75m from the deck to the water. After years of debate and over an estimated 1,500 deaths, suicide barriers began to be installed in April 2017, for $200 million, almost six times the cost of constructing the original bridge.

Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge, Japan

The Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge, or the Pearl Bridge, has ousted Golden Gate from the title of the “world’s longest suspension bridge”, with a central span of 1,991m. The bridge stood a test of strength even before it opened in 1998, surviving the 7.2-magnitude Kobe Earthquake in January 1995. The bridge, which cost the Japanese government $3.6 billion, was also meant to attract tourists to even out the cost. Two parks were built in its surroundings, called Maiko and Asagiri, offering breathtaking views of the strait to the visitors. Both parks are reachable through the coastal train line.

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