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A bridge is a link between two worlds, a point of tension between two separate and often disparate locations. Free, belonging neither to one region or another, the bridge imposes upon the landscape and defies nature. Its existence embodies the will of mankind to construct these necessary bonds between people and places. A symbol of progress and innovation, the bridge, anonymous demonstration of the mastery and the durability of new techniques, is gradually becoming more and more light and fluid, constantly defying stateoftheart technology. As veritable aesthetic creations, bridges appear today not only as examples of masterful engineering, but also as incredible works of art. With its magnificent photographs, this book invites the reader to rediscover these modernday sculptures.



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Published 31 December 2015
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EAN13 9781785259227
Language English
Document size 2 MB

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© Parkstone Press International, New York, USA
© Confidential Concepts, Worldwide, USA

© Mike Brake |
© Francisco Javier Gil Oreja |
© Rwaleson |

All modification and reproduction rights reserved internationally. Unless otherwise stated, copyright
for all artwork reproductions rests with the photographers who created them. Despite our research
efforts, it was impossible to identify authorship rights in some cases. Please address any copyright
claims to the publisher.

ISBN: 978-1-78525-922-7


C o n t e n t s

I. Stone and Brick
II. Wood
III. Metal
IndexSuspended Bridge
Location: Mustang, Annapurna, Nepal
Material: Steel

I n t r o d u c t i o n

The urban and rural landscapes of today are marked with many structures that are frequently
overlooked because of their habitual use. Bridges are examples of such structures. Do residents of
San Francisco often fall into raptures over the remarkable Golden Gate Bridge, Parisians over the
Pont Alexandre III or Londoners over the Tower Bridge? In fact, bridges’ aesthetic qualities and often
the impressive technological prowess that contributed to their creation deserve an admiring pause:
bridges are in essence dynamic sculptures, inhabiting the landscape, marking society’s development
throughout history. These structures made of wood, stone or iron represent the means of physical
communication, from railroads to interstate highways, that connect our villages, our cities, our
provinces, our countries. Soaring over streams and rivers, overcoming ravines and linking continents,
bridges are essential to civilisation and unifying tools for society. These masterpieces of architecture
rise above mere utility and become the simultaneous expressions of our history and our future.
Was the first bridge perhaps an accident of nature? Most likely a fallen tree landed across the banks
of a river, connecting the opposite sides. Before man learned of the advantage of crossing bodies of
water without getting wet, animals undoubtedly borrowed this new route. Imitating this original
natural bridge, so rudimentary at first glance, man discovered that it was possible to make the
passages more sophisticated, endowing bridges with strength and durability.
As civilisations developed and progressed, bridges were constructed with finely-worked wood and
stones were used to reinforce their foundations. Earlier than the third millennium B.C.E., frescoes
and texts refer to the construction of bridges in association with the names of monarchs, who used the
structures as demonstrations of their power and endurance. Two bridges have found permanent places
in history: that of Egyptian pharaoh Menes, constructed around 2560 B.C.E. across the Nile, and that
of Assyrian Queen Semiramis, built over the River Euphrates several centuries later.
With the barbarian invasions of the 5th and 6th centuries C.E., Roman lines were pushed back by
marauding groups from the East. Visigoths, Franks, Huns and Vandals surged through the civilised
world, leaving ruined cities, roads and bridges in the wake of their violence.Stability was restored to Europe in the 7th century. In the late 8th century, Charlemagne
reassembled lands into a unified territory and, feeling the need for rapid movement of troops, began
to improve the paths of communication in the heart of Europe. The renovation efforts, while modest,
were put into effect, and soon various construction methods were discovered or rediscovered.
The Middle Ages saw marked progress under pressure from merchants who were developing their
business enterprises beyond the limits of their hometowns. Bridges were once again in demand, old
remnants restored and new bridges appearing at strategic locations over streams and rivers.
During the Renaissance, bridges became indispensable to commerce and warring armies
throughout Europe. Adding to their utilitarian qualities, bridges were endowed with importance by
princes, who wished to impress their contemporaries and demonstrate their prestige by leaving lasting
monuments like bridges in their respective cities. Bridges were erected thus in Florence, Venice, Paris
and London, often housing shops or residences. The development of tolls as a way of taxing goods or
people crossing the waterways further increased the popularity of bridges during the Renaissance.
Thanks to the cultural rebirth and scientific innovations of this period, people were able to build
longer, more artistically complex bridges. In 1747, under the supervision of Louis XV, France
became the first country to establish a specialised school for urban engineering: the École Royale des
Ponts et Chaussées.
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, construction techniques advanced at an incredible pace
with new discoveries. Wood and stone, which had remained the materials of choice for
bridgebuilding, were being replaced by the stronger, more practical substances bronze, iron and steel.
Engineers, no longer timid or restrained by technological limitations, spanned every stream and river
in the western world with a bridge, permitting, at the same time, the development of railroads.
As countries, cities and towns were thus connected by new means of communication and as trains
became heavier and longer, further innovations in the construction of bridges became necessary. In
addition to improving the technical properties of these passageways, engineers like Gustave Eiffel,
with his Garabis viaduct, built in 1882, used metal and its capabilities to raise the aesthetic value of
bridges to the level of architectural monuments, testifying to the triumphant 19th century.
Furthermore, with Europe’s colonisation of Asia and Africa, the entire world was being transformed
into wide streets, bridges and other ingenious roadways.
The 20th century was the century of the automobile, large roads and highways, continuing to serve
millions of people. The bridges built in modern times are taller, wider and constantly more numerous;
nothing seems to stand in the way of engineers, no ravine, stream or river is too deep or wide or wild
to be spanned.
However, even in the midst of this frenetic industrial pace, many bridges created in the past have
today become symbols rather than structures, like the ‘bridge on the River Kwai’, immortal
testimonials to our collective history.Bogdan Khmelnitsky (Kievsky) Pedestrian Bridge
Location: Moscow, Russia. Crosses: Moskva River
Material and type: Arch bridge, two hinged
Completed: 2 September 2001Alcántara Bridge
Location: Alcántara, Extremadura, Spain
Crosses: Tagus River. Architect: Gaius Julius Lacer
Material and type: Arch bridge, o p u s q u a d r a t u m (stone)
Dimensions: length: 194 m, width: 8 m, height: 71 m, arches: 6
Construction: c. 104-106 C.E.

I. Stone and Brick

Because of the durability of the materials, the oldest bridges still standing today were generally made
from stone or brick. Earlier than 200 B.C.E., Greek and Etruscan architects, who had been summoned
to construct the bridges of Ancient Rome, built segmented, semicircular arches to support the initial
structures. This technique allowed the construction of much longer bridges, while strengthening the
structure and permitting a less-obstructed flow of water below the passage in the event of a flood.
Most Roman bridges, particularly aqueducts, were built based on this principle of multiple arches.
At the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century, engineers like Thomas Telford, Isambard
Kingdom Brunel and John Rennie continued to use arches of cut stone or brick in their modern
bridges for the durability of the materials as well as their beauty and ability to blend in harmoniously
with the surrounding landscape.P o n t - d u - G a r d
L o c a t i o n: near Nîmes, Languedoc-Roussillon, France. C r o s s e s: Gardon River
M a t e r i a l a n d t y p e: Arch bridge, stone, used as aqueduct, then road bridge, finally
tourist attraction
D i m e n s i o n s: length: 275 m, long span: 25.3 m, height: 47.7 m, width of channel: 1.2 m; slope:
0.19 m/km
C o n s t r u c t i o n: 19 B.C.E.

The Pont-du-Gard is a Roman aqueduct that was constructed during the reign of Caesar Augustus in
19 B.C.E. Composed of three layers of arches, it has a total height of about 48 metres and measures
275 metres in length. It was intended to transport water from sources of the Eure and Airan rivers,
near the town of Uzès, to the city of Nîmes. A masterpiece of Roman engineering, the bridge was
constructed of cut stones, using neither mortar nor cement. The water pipe, so to speak, measures 1.2
metres wide and 1.6 metres high. The aqueduct crosses the river Gardon, situated at the bottom of a
deep valley, and the principle arch that spans the river has an opening of 25.3 metres.Pont Saint-Bénezet, also known as Pont d’Avignon
Location: Avignon, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France. Crosses: Rhone River
Material and type: Fixed arch bridge, stone, road bridge
Dimensions: spans: 20, measuring 30.8 to 33.5 m each, total length: 900 m
Construction: 1171-1186, disused in 1680

Construction of the Pont Saint-Bénezet, better known as the Pont d’Avignon thanks to the popular
song “Sur le Pont d’Avignon”, took place in the 12th century. Tradition attributes the idea for the
bridge to a young shepherd named Bénezet, who has been considered a ‘saint’ since the 13th century,
although he has never been officially canonised, contrary to the common belief that his canonisation
indeed took place under Pope Innocent IV.
Of the nineteen arches that originally formed the bridge, unfortunately only four survive today,
creating a particularly bold and picturesque impression. The elegant, exceptional chapel, built at the
same time as the bridge between the third arch and the fourth arch, housed the tomb of ‘saint’
Bénezet. However, in the 17th century, due to the deteriorated state of the bridge and the risks of the
high water levels of the Rhone, the relics were removed first to a nearby Celestine monastery, then to
the collegiate church of St. Didier of Avignon at the end of the 19th century.Ponte Vecchio
Location: Florence, Tuscany, Italy. Crosses: Arno River
Architect: Taddeo Gaddi or Neri di Fioravanti, according to the source
Material and type: Three arches bridge, in stone, used as a road bridge
Dimensions: longest span: 30 m, length of side spans: 27 m, height of arches: 3.9 to 4.4 m
Construction: 1335-1345

The Ponte Vecchio, originally constructed in wood by the Romans, is the oldest bridge in Florence
and one of the oldest in Europe. It was reconstructed in stone in 1345 by Taddeo Gaddi (or Neri di
Fioravanti; the identity of the architect is somewhat disputed) and hosted a variety of merchants who
sold their goods from tables in front of their shops. This practice still occurs today, only the goods
being sold having changed from food to clothing and gold jewellery.
Legend has it that the concept of bankruptcy originated at the Ponte Vecchio. The term was used
when a vendor was deeply in debt, and his table (‘banca’) was broken, making it a ‘banca rotta’,
broken table. Without a table on which to display his wares, he would be unable to continue his
business.Ponte dei Saraceni
Location: near Adrano, Tuscany, Italy. Crosses: Simeto River
Material and type: Arch bridge, stone. Construction: c. 10th century