Best Bridges of the New Millennium
Flashy buildings get all the press, but bridges are making an even more dramatic leap forward. Here are the 12 most worth a detour.
Denver Millennium Footbridge
Designed by ArchitectureDenver, the 130-foot-long Denver Millennium Footbridge (2002) was built to cross the railroad tracks separating Riverfront Park, a complex of stores, condos, and green spaces, from the 16th Street Mall. What makes the big impression, though, is the 200-foot-tall, tapered steel mast, which resembles that of a sailboat. Back Story: To have the deck as low as possible while still allowing trains to pass underneath, the support structure had to be above the deck, hence the single, tilted mast at one end. It's tilted to distribute the asymmetrical weight. See for Yourself: At night, the mast is lit from below, creating a beacon at the edge of downtown. Free shuttle buses run from the capitol building to Union Station, a five-minute walk east of the bridge (rtd-denver.com).
Another Calatrava design, this glass-and-granite deck, completed in 2004, crosses the Sacramento River in Redding, Calif., linking the north and south campuses of Turtle Bay Exploration Park (turtlebay.org, $12). The cable-stayed design precludes the need for piers in the water, which would have disturbed a salmon-spawning habitat.
Reiman Pedestrian Bridge
Santiago Calatrava's first commission in America was the Quadracci Pavilion, a 2001 expansion of the Milwaukee Art Museum (414/224-3200, mam.org). He designed a footbridge to complement the brise-soleil, the wings that rise and lower to control temperature and light in the new pavilion.
Santiago Calatrava's Lyre Bridge (2004) is in Hoofddorp, near Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. It's one of three cable-stayed bridges in the area designed by the Spanish architect; all cross the Hoofdvaart canal. Back Story: Unlike the other two bridges (see Lute Bridge and Harp Bridge, below), the Lyre has two connected spans--a 64-foot lower roadway and a 488-foot overpass--and a 190-foot mast. See for Yourself:: It's a 23-minute train ride from Amsterdam's Central Station to Hoofddorp (ns.nl, $10 round trip). From there, take the 145 bus south toward Leiden; it stops at all three bridges ($1.75). The bridges are within five miles of one another, if you'd prefer to walk or ride a bike.
At 86 feet long, the Lute is the shortest of Santiago Calatrava's three Dutch bridges. It provides access to the Toolenburg district of Hoofddorp. The city council had planned a roundabout and a bridge for the site, but Calatrava incorporated the idea of a traffic circle into his design: Two curved roadways join the two banks of the Hoofdvaart canal.
The 468-foot-long Harp Bridge, which provides an entry to the town of Nieuw Vennep, is another in Calatrava's trio of Dutch bridges. Designing three bridges in one area is a trend for the architect: Work on his three bridges over the Trinity River in Dallas, Tex., is scheduled to begin this year.
China is emerging as the Land of Bridges, with scores in development or under construction. The most ambitious project to date is the Donghai Bridge (2005). The longest cross-sea structure in the world, it connects Shanghai's Luchao Port to the Yangshan Islands in the East China Sea. Back Story: Most of the 20-mile-long bridge is a low viaduct, with six lanes designed for vehicle speeds up to 50 miles per hour. Its serpentine route lessens the fatigue drivers encounter when going in a straight line for long periods. Four cable-stayed arches allow ships to pass underneath; the main arch is formed by two 500-foot towers and has a span of 1,400 feet. See for Yourself: Although the bridge's primary function is to serve Yangshan's deepwater port, there are future plans to develop the East China Sea islands as tourist attractions. One company has recognized that the bridge has an appeal in itself: Last spring, Shanghai Huandao Shipping ran 90-minute sightseeing cruises from Luchao Port to Donghai Bridge several times a week. There was no word at press time that they'll be offered this year.