Don't Burn These Bridges
Tumbling out of city skylines and sprawling across open expanses, bridges are a fixture of both urban and pastoral landscapes. Commuters, pedestrians, and cargo transporters alike depend on them to keep daily life in motion.
But beyond the practical, these structures serve as emblems of a region's culture, simultaneously exhibiting and engendering a sense of identity. Here are some bridges that do far more than simply get people from point A to point B.
Bridges In Pop Culture
1. Denmark's Oresund Bridge, which straddles the Oresund strait, is the first and only bridge to connect continental Europe and Sweden. It’s also the setting of the popular TV show The Bridge, a mystery-drama that centers around the discovery of one half of two different bodies on the Oresund’s border, leading to an investigation by both Danish and Swedish police. The show was such a success that it’s had to two international remakes, each based on the premise of a murder on the border between two countries. The American adaptation is set on the Bridge of the Americas (between Texas and Mexico), while the British-French series The Tunnel takes place on the Channel Tunnel.
2. To tourists and native San Franciscans alike, the Golden Gate Bridge symbolizes American ingenuity. But in movies, it more often serves as a metaphor for civilization’s failure, appearing simply to be destroyed. The first movie to depict the Golden Gate’s destruction was It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955). In more recent years, the bridge has met a grisly fate in a whole heap of films, including X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), Monsters vs. Aliens (2009), Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), Pacific Rim (2013), Godzilla (2014), and San Andreas (2015).
It’s not terribly surprising that the picturesque Golden Gate Bridge shows up in so many action films — helicopters can hover above, boats can circle beneath, and both the city's skyline and Marin County offer beautiful backdrops. Still, these scenes occur with such frequency that viewers might wonder whether they're actually a guised attack on all that San Francisco represents.
Bridges As Public Art
1. The Sundial Bridge inside Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding, California serves as both a method of crossing the Sacramento River and an actual sundial — talk about living in the moment!
Some skeptics might dismiss the structure as a mere novelty, seeing as the sundial is only 100% accurate on the day of the Summer Solstice. Still, it’s quite a sight to behold. And, given the ancient history of sundials, this cleverly conceived bridge constantly reminds visitors of technology that predates the modern era — especially since it can only be crossed on foot or bicycle.
2. Protruding from the shoreline as a circular platform for pedestrians, Denmark’s Infinite Bridge is not technically a bridge (because it doesn't connect two places). Instead, it's more of a meditation on bridges in the metaphorical sense, since the Infinite Bridge is intended to link people to the natural landscape surrounding it. Johan Gjøde, one of the architects who designed it, has said, "Walking on the bridge, you experience the changing landscape as an endless panoramic composition, and at the same time you enter a space of social interaction with other people experiencing the same panorama."
Bridges As Cultural Symbols
1. Can a bridge with no beginning and no end still get you where you want to go? The Lucky Knot Bridge in Changsha, which resembles a mobius strip (tracing a “figure 8” pattern) certainly can, thanks to its eight different street entrances that allow pedestrians to cross both a highway and the Dragon King Harbor River. Its name derives from the fact that knots are a symbol of prosperity in Chinese culture — not to mention that red is considered a lucky color.
2. Da Nang's The Dragon Bridge is less than a decade old, but references an aspect of Vietnamese culture that dates back centuries. At first glance, the symbolism of the Dragon Bridge is blatant— a dragon commonly represents power, nobility, and good fortune in Vietnamese culture.
The real reason people are excited about the Dragon Bridge, though, is that it actually breathes fire twice per week. As traffic is shut down for safety reasons, large crowds of both tourists and locals gather around to witness the spectacle. The fact that the dragon breathes, giving it a sense of sentience, adds another layer of symbolism. The life of the dragon mirrors the renewed “life” of the economy of the surrounding region, which has been experiencing unprecedented prosperity in recent years.
3. The Moses Bridge inside Fort de Roovere in the Netherlands goes through, rather than over, the water. But, despite its resemblance to Moses’s parted sea, its origins are decidedly not biblical. Instead, Moses Bridge pays homage to the site’s military past by way of modern engineering.
When it was built in the 17th century, the moat surrounding Fort de Roovere was meant to keep invading armies at bay. Today, pedestrians can safely cross it through a semi-submerged passageway, which is barely visible from land.
Bridges As Meeting Places
1. With pagodas built into it, and benches flanking each side, the Wind and Rain Bridge of Chengyang, China is as much a place to congregate as it is a way to cross the Linxi River. Locals utilize the three floors, five pavilions, and 19 verandas to socialize, hold meetings, and sell goods to tourists. In 1996, the bridge was named a “World Heritage Site “by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
2. There may not be a bridge on earth as versatile as the Khaju Bridge in Isfahan, Iran. Besides linking the banks of the Zayandeh River, the Khaju also functions as a dam, a source of irrigation for gardens along the banks, and a place for recreation and meetings. While the teahouses built inside of the bridge play an important role in the social lives of nearby residents, it is infamously known as a place to gather for illicit singing and dancing (both of which are banned in Iran).
In the end, bridges are important because when land is connected, so are people and ideas. Whether they're the setting for the stories we tell, symbols of the values we hold dear, or places to gather and express ourselves, bridges allow us to reach out and link up with the rest of the world.