An old railway bridge that had become an eyesore in Wuppertal, Germany, now surprises passersby with a neon underbelly that looks like a supersize Lego project. In fact, it’s the strange, inspired work of a street artist known as Megx.
Most bridges have a simple mission: to transport people and vehicles from point A to point B in the most efficient way possible. But where is the fun in that? Like Megx, some civil engineers and architects have let their imaginations run free when it comes to designing these deceptively simple spans, producing wonderfully strange bridges that confound, amuse, and sometimes solve complex planning challenges.
Take, for example, the Tianjin Eye Bridge in China, whose six lanes are straddled by one of the world’s largest Ferris wheels, or the Sunken Bridge in the Netherlands, which appears to lead pedestrians through rather than over the water. In Paris, you may soon be able to bounce your way across the Seine: AZC Architects has drawn up a proposal for an inflatable bridge with a trio of giant trampolines.
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Many such bridges would make 20th-century artist M. C. Escher—famous for his mind-bending lithographs that challenge perceptions of space and perspective—proud. The son of a civil engineer, Escher happens to have been born in Leeuwarden, the location of one of the craziest bridges we came across. When a ship traveling down the Harlinger Vaart River needs to cross traffic, a mechanical arm removes a 50-square-foot section of road and hoists it aloft like a giant robot flipping a pancake.
Escher recognized that a bridge links two worlds, yet it need not be anchored in the reality of either. Often it’s the pedestrian bridges that take this concept to heart and allow for the most whimsical designs. Free from the pressing needs and load-bearing concerns of commuter vehicles, these bridges pivot, unroll, submerge, and rotate.
While these bridges are marvels of engineering, you don’t need to know a Whipple trapezoidal truss from a Fink truss bridge to appreciate the sense of whimsy that goes into their creation. Read on to discover our picks for the world’s most remarkable bridges: we guarantee you won’t regret making the crossing.