A recent episode of the excellent Hello Internet podcast got into listing favourite bridges, which of course prompted me to think about mine. The one rule: I have to have visited the bridge for it be qualify.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
No surprises with choice number one: one of the most famously beautiful bridges in the world.
Two things make it stand out for me. First, that it’s the site of my favourite place to sit and read in the world, if I can get there early enough to grab a quayside table with a clear view. Second, it’s a reminder of how too much of a good thing dulls the senses. I’ve often visited Sydney and each time I travel over the bridge on the bus during commuting hours I’m still sat up straight, excitedly looking around at the view – whilst a bus full of commuters is head down, ignoring it. Amazing though Sydney is, it feels better not to live there and so still to treasure such moments.
The Golden Gate Bridge
A fairly conventional second choice too but wow, it’s amazing. Having seen it so often in photographs, TV and film before seeing it in real life, I did wonder if it would really live up to its billing. It did with ease as I went over in a bus, back on foot and under in a boat.
Part of what makes it so amazing in real life is the tiny looking fort at the foot of the bridge on the left in the photo. Tiny looking up against the bridge, but up close the fort is a huge brick affair whose diminution when seen against the bridge really brings out just how massive the Golden Gate Bridge is.
Porthill Bridge, Shrewsbury
Less famous is the Porthill Bridge in Shrewsbury but it makes my list for being so fun to walk over. As the photo shows, it arches significantly in the middle and the combination of this and its method of construction means you get a pleasing bouncy feel as you walk over, even if killjoys (sorry, essential refurbishment) has dampened the fun in recent years.
Smaller in size and less crowded than London’s wobbly bridge, there’s much more passing amusement to be had from this bridge. If I was to wake up and discover myself dictator for the day, all the nation’s architects would find themselves ordered to walk over it half a dozen times to be reminder of the value of fun in design.
Blackfriars Station, London
What a brilliant idea it was to expand Blackfriars Station by building it out on the bridge over the Thames. It’s not only a lovely station to look at, with copious natural daylight on the inside and the beautiful raked solar panel roof to admire from the outside. It’s also a great reminder of when bridges were more than just bridges but had houses, shops and other uses too.
It’s an oddity of our crowded and expensive modern urban areas that the centuries-old model of using bridges for more than must bridging has not come back into favour more strongly.
To round off the five, the Forth Bridge in Scotland looks so impressive marching its way over the water that it hardly needs justification for inclusion. Its role in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Thirty-Nine Steps is just the bonus on top.
That’s my attempt to squeeze my favourite bridges down to a mere five. What are yours?
UPDATE: Stephen Glenn, Jonathan Calder and Tim Holyoake have blogged their own great lists of five.