Before there were skyscrapers and state of the art arenas, bridges were some of the first structures that were created by humans, dating back to the Romans who ushered in much of the world’s more modern architectural and engineering feats. Bridges served a great purpose, connecting lands that would otherwise not be able to be traversed by people, other than by boat. It saved time and facilitated the transportation of goods in a time when travel did not come with ease.
Most of the architecture seen in history has been redefined and upgraded to get better as our knowledge has grown, but the design of bridges has withstood the test of time. In fact some of the most impressive bridges ever constructed have been around for well over centuries before we even had automobiles, still standing as tall and as strong as ever.
There are many instances of engineers getting it right, resulting in some of the best wonders of the world. Unfortunately, others have come up very short, whether by design failure or simply giving us something that isn’t easy on the eyes. Here are ten times bridge designers around the world got it wrong and ten that worked brilliantly!
20 Got it Wrong: Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Washington, USA
The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was constructed in the state of Washington near Tacoma in 1940. The size, for its time, made it one of the longest suspension bridges in the world and was seen as a major achievement because of its size and impressive looking steel frame. Throughout construction and even after it opened to the public for use, it was observed undulating during windy conditions by experts and even average folks.
This led to small efforts to stop the bridge's movements, but only four months after opening, the bridge collapsed after being unable to sustain mild 40 mile per hour winds, thankfully taking no lives. The fall was caught on film by a local camera shop owner and was used extensively for research purposes in the construction of future bridges.
19 Brilliant: Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, USA
No list of best bridges is complete without the engineering marvel that is San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, often cited as the mother of all bridges. No longer the longest nor tallest in the world as it once was when it was constructed in 1937, it held the title of longest for 27 years and tallest for 56 years. Even though it has been surpassed in these specifications, it is unlikely that the Golden Gate Bridge will ever play second fiddle to any other bridge when it goes down history.
Often considered the most beautiful ever constructed, it is most certainly the most photographed bridge on the planet.
18 Got it Wrong: Mount Hua Bridges, China
Mount Hua in China is a popular mountain for those looking to find some fun on the extreme side. The mountain has become notorious for its difficult treks that require not only some pretty good hiking skills, but some serious guts.
Parts of the mountain require making a journey across the bridges of Mount Hua which are haunting, to say the least. Rather than call these legitimate bridge structures, these are more like wooden planks attached to the side of the mountain jutting out over hundred foot drops. Measures have been taken in recent times to fortify these bridges to help increase safety, but they’re still probably a horrible idea just by the looks of it.
17 Brilliant: Tsing Ma Bridge, Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong’s Tsing Ma Bridge is up there with the most structurally sound ever constructed in history. It has to be as it has multiple decks which carry road traffic as well as rail traffic, while being able to withstand winds that are comparable to typhoon and tsunami force because of the city’s susceptibility to natural disasters. Beyond being an incredible feat of engineering, the Tsing Ma Bridge is also one of the world’s most incredible to simply look at as its 676-foot tall towers are impressive over the Ma Wan Channel.
16 Got it Wrong: Silver Bridge, Ohio and West Virginia, USA
This is definitely one of the more extreme cases of designers getting it wrong when it comes to bridges. The Silver Bridge, an eye-bar chain suspension bridge, was completed in 1928, connecting West Virginia and Ohio over the Ohio River.
The engineers missed the mark with a defect in a suspension chain amounting to being misaligned by a mere 0.1 inches, ultimately leading to the bridge's demise, collapsing in 1967, resulting in 46 perishing in the tragedy. Beyond the design failing, poor upkeep and maintenance over the years was a big contributing factor as well.
15 Brilliant: Brooklyn Bridge, New York City, USA
Up there with San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge might be just as iconic in many ways. Certainly around for much longer, it was built 135 years ago, making it the first steel-wire suspension bridge ever built. What makes the Brooklyn Bridge so impressive is the fact that it was originally built to carry people and stagecoaches, but has managed to remain so foundationally strong while transitioning to carrying well over 100,000 vehicles and pedestrians on a daily basis, making it one of the most trafficked bridges in use today.
While those are great achievements, no one can argue with the Brooklyn Bridge’s instantly recognizable place in the New York Harbor as a favorite for taking memorable photographs.
14 Got it Wrong: Eshima Ohashi Bridge, Japan
Japan’s Eshima Ohashi has become somewhat of a minor internet sensation as there have been varying accounts of the bridges actual physical appearance. It has been more commonly shown to the world as a bridge with an undulating and extremely steep overpass, making it appear as if the designers got this one all wrong.
The reality is that the pictures that have been shared cast the bridge in a different light through different angles. Eshima Ohashi is in fact very steep and does have an odd appearance, but it’s not quite as exaggerated. It’s probably somewhere in the middle!
13 Brilliant: Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, Kobe Naruto, Japan
Japan’s Akashi Kaikyo, also known to many as the Pearl Bridge, is absolutely massive in size. At 12,831 feet, it is the longest suspension bridge in the world and also one of the tallest ever constructed with its towers reaching 975 feet tall. To put that in perspective, the average skyscrapers are hundreds of feet shorter, which would make the Akashi Kaikyo the tallest structure in most major cities.
Built to withstand the strongest forces known to man because of its place over the Akashi Strait which is known to be hit by tsunamis often, the Pearl Bridge is one of Japan’s marvels.
12 Got it Wrong: The Rolling Bridge, London England
Located in London crossing the Grand Central Union Canal, this bridge is the first of its kind and has raised a lot of eyebrows in the process. Opened to the public in 2005, the steel bridge was designed to move to make way for waterway traffic in the canal beneath it. Although there are thousands of movable bridges that retract, the Rolling Bridge literally rolls up like a caterpillar instead.
The curling movement is interesting and is an attention grabber, but many see it as a bit excessive and over the top coupled with its peculiar look.
11 Brilliant: Tower Bridge, London, England
The Tower Bridge is likely the most popular bridge in all of London, only challenged by London Bridge, made known to the world by the famous children's nursery song. In terms of iconic standing, the Tower Bridge is unmatched as it has become one of the most recognizable landmarks in a city full of icons.
The bridge was constructed in 1894 and crosses the beautiful River Thames, situated next to many of London’s other famous sites. Rather than being known for its size and scope, the bridge is most famous for its stunning façade and twin towers that light up the sky at night.
10 Got it Wrong: Pythonbrug, Amsterdam
The Pythonbrug Bridge, also known as the Python Bridge to many, definitely breaks from the traditional mold of what is typical of Amsterdam architecture. A city known for having many bridges with a whopping 1,281 throughout, most of which cross over the expansive canal system, is known for the historic and traditional look of its structures, dating back centuries. The antique look has become a staple of the city’s bridges, so when the Python Bridge went up, it stood out a great deal with its bright red and more futuristic look.
It also doesn’t help that cyclists need to walk their bikes up the steep ramps making it almost unusable for anyone that isn’t walking.
9 Brilliant: Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney, Australia
The Sydney Harbour Bridge is a steel arch bridge and one of the largest of its kind. It’s also known to many locals as the Coathanger because the design’s arch resembles a giant one.
The bridge is one of Sydney’s most beloved landmarks as it has become a staple of the city along with the world famous Sydney Opera House. Together they make for an iconic view, sitting in the Sydney Harbour, often making them some of the most photographed sites in the entire country.
8 Got it Wrong: I35 W Mississippi River Bridge, Minnesota
In one of the more well-known cases of bridge failure, the catastrophic collapse of Minneapolis’ I-35 W Mississippi River Bridge is one of the more awful events to occur in modern times. Before it fell, it was the third most trafficked bridge in the state of Minnesota, carrying an average of 140,000 commuters a day. During the middle of rush hour on the eve of August 1, 2007, the bridge suddenly buckled and collapsed, injuring 145 people and ending the lives of 13.
Design flaws were listed as the cause, which has been studied by engineers to ensure there is no repeat of the tragic event.
7 Brilliant: Hangzhou Bay Bridge, Zhejiang, China
China’s Hangzhou Bay Bridge is one of the longest ever constructed at 22 miles. It is a trans-oceanic bridge which serves more like a highway connecting cities over long stretches of water rather than a standard bridge which closes the gap between two pieces of land that aren’t drastically far from one another. The Hangzhou Bay Bridge was built to help shorten the commute between the cities of Ningbo and Shanghai from four to two hours. This bridge joins the list because of its incredible engineering, but also because it’s one of the world’s most beautiful with its spire towers jutting out into the sky over the bay.
6 Got it Wrong: Chengdu Tianfu Bridge, China
In an effort to replicate one of the bridges that made our brilliant list, the city of Chengdu came up short by a mile. Their attempt at making their own Chinese version of London’s Tower Bridge has unfortunately been ridiculed because it simply did not meet expectations.
The bridge attempted to recreate the iconic towers, but Chengdu’s version simply looks like a red miniature version that is an eyesore. When comparing them side by side, it becomes evident the designers were not up to the task.
5 Brilliant: Pont du Gard Aqueduct, Gard, France
There is no true timeline for when the Pont du Gard was completed by the Romans, but most counts put this bridge at nearly 1,500 years old, which automatically makes it a shoo-in to join any list of bridges that were done right by its designers.
If anyone can design a bridge to last this long while still being in use a millennium later, the engineering is timeless and as impressive as ever. The Romans, known for their ingenuity and ushering in of modern civilization are the creators of some of the world’s most historic structures, Pont du Gard included.
4 Got it Wrong: Lucky Knot Bridge, Changsha, China
Being innovative and not being afraid to try something new and refreshing is the mark of a great engineer. But there are times when some go too far and that’s probably the case with China’s Lucky Knot Bridge. Although there’s no denying that the bridge is an immediate attention grabber with its all red façade and unique design. The twisting knots of red steel, although striking, have also been described by many as too much and a bit of an eyesore over the Dragon King Harbor River.
3 Brilliant: Seri Wawasan Bridge, Putrajaya, Malaysia
Malaysia’s Seri Wawasan Bridge opened in 2003 and connects one of Putrajaya’s islands to the mainland city over the lake. The cable bridge, although a great engineering accomplishment, primarily joins the list because of the architecture’s stunning design. The bridge has become famous throughout the world for its incredible aesthetics, winning multiple architectural awards.
The bridge resembles a giant sail which gives the appearance of a ship floating in the lake, often leaving spectators in awe. It is also known for the different and ever-changing lighting used at nighttime which adds to the dramatic effect of the bridge.
2 Got it Wrong: Dragon Bridge, Da Nang, Vietnam
This entry is very much like China’s Lucky Knot Bridge where some will find the unique innovation captivating while others find it to be excessive and comical. In this instance, Vietnam’s Dragon Bridge sort of falls into both categories… depending on the time of day you plan to visit.
At night, the bridge lights up and looks magnificent as a luminescent yellow fire-breathing dragon crossing over the bay. But during the daytime, it’s most certainly a different story. Without the use of illuminating LED lights to add so much color, it simply looks like an out of place, tacky bridge conjured up by a child.
1 Brilliant: Millau Viaduct, Tran Valley, France
The South of France joins our list of bridges that got it right by giving us the world’s tallest bridge. With a jaw-dropping height of 1,125 feet, this bridge would tower over most skylines! The bridge crosses a gorge valley near Millau which dips far down, making the bridge connect the land at extreme heights. It has won several engineering awards as it was able to accomplish feats never seen in the bridge community by overcoming obstacles that heights like this pose. The spires stretching into the sky are also reason enough to add them to any list of brilliant bridges!