Most bridges have a simple mission: to transport people and vehicles from point A to point B efficiently. But where is the fun in that?
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Some civil engineers and architects have let their imaginations run free when it comes to designing these 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.
Check out more of the world’s unusual bridges: we guarantee you won’t regret making the crossing.
Tianjin Eye: Tianjin, China
When is a bridge not quite a bridge? When it’s a Ferris wheel, of course. The Tianjin Eye is a 394-foot-tall carnival ride over the Haihe River in northern China. Completed in 2007, the six-lane bridge incorporates 48 passenger capsules, each with a capacity of eight people. One full rotation takes half an hour, creating the perfect diversion for commuters stuck in bridge traffic.
Lego Bridge: Wuppertal, Germany
Few bridges can boast a wonderful view from their underside. This apparently ordinary span was transformed over a period of four weeks by a street artist known as Megx into what resembles a supersize Lego construction, delivering a bright dose of childhood nostalgia for drivers passing beneath.
Rolling Bridge: London
Architecture firm Heatherwick studio rose to the challenge of designing a bridge to span the narrow Grand Union Canal at London’s Paddington Basin—while still allowing ships free passage. The strange, ingenious bridge is made of eight identical segments capable of rolling and unrolling like a party noisemaker. Every Friday at midday the hydraulic-powered construction is activated (regardless of boat traffic) to the amusement of waiting pedestrians.
Sunken Bridge: Halsteren, Netherlands
Building a bridge over troubled waters makes sense. Building a bridge through the very waters you are trying to avoid is just plain crazy. Ro Koster and Ad Kil Architects constructed a remarkable sunken bridge in Halsteren to cross the defensive moat at Fort de Roovere, built in the 1700s to protect the Netherlands from invasion by France and Spain.
Falkirk Wheel: Falkirk, Scotland
A series of 11 locks once raised small ships the 115 feet from the Union Canal to the Forth and Clyde Canal above. When the entire mechanism was disassembled in 1933, this vital shipping link was broken. Seeking to reconnect the two canals, in 2002, British Waterways built the Falkirk Wheel, a strange contraption that allows ships to sail into a sealed bathlike pod that then rotates, bringing the boat to the new water level above.
Slauerhoffbrug: Leeuwarden, Netherlands
In M. C. Escher’s hometown of Leeuwarden stands a bridge that resembles something out of War of the Worlds. When a ship traveling down the Harlinger Vaart River needs to cross traffic, a mechanical arm removes a 50-foot square section of road and hoists it aloft like a giant robot flipping a pancake.
Friendship Bridge: Nantan, Japan
Ordinarily, a bridge is the shortest distance between two banks. The Friendship Bridge is no ordinary bridge. Located in the wellness resort town of Yoshi Springs, just outside of Kyoto, this bridge traces out a circle 262 feet in diameter. It was designed by Japanese architects Norihiko Dan and Associates and is meant to add to the contemplative serenity of the resort.
London Bridge: Lake Havasu, AZ
This would be an ordinary bridge if it were still spanning the River Thames in London, England. What makes this century-old construction preposterous is the fact that in 1968 it was bought by chain-saw magnate Robert McCulloch, disassembled stone by stone, then transported to remote Lake Havasu, where it is now a rather incongruous local landmark (along with other oddities like one-third-scale functioning lighthouses).
Crab Bridge: Christmas Island, Australia
Why did the crab cross the road? To get to the other side—and join 120 million of his relatives. Christmas Island, a tiny Australian territory 230 miles off the coast of Indonesia, sees an annual migration of red crabs, journeying from their spawning grounds, located inland, to the ocean. The crabs migrate in such staggering numbers that roads become impassable, leading wildlife rangers to erect some of the strangest (and heavily trafficked bridges) on the planet.
Henderson Waves Bridge: Singapore
Connecting two bucolic hilltop parks in busy Singapore, this undulating sculpture of steel ribs resembles a Slinky, with dips and valleys concealing seating and vantage points from which to observe Henderson Road, 118 feet below. The pedestrian-only bridge lights up the night sky.
See More of the World’s Strangest Bridges.