It seems that every day architecture seeks to exceed itself in terms of bridges, and the Huangchuan Glass Bridge serves as an example of this. With a length of 526 meters, this bridge is not only the longest work of its type in the world (Guinness World Record), but also one of the toughest challenges architecture can implement to overcome one of the most common phobias, acrophobia (fear of heights).
Located in Lianzhou, Guangdong Province, the so-called “glass bridge” stands in the Three Gorges Scenic Area, a branch of the Beijiang River system in the Pearl River Basin, at the end of the Qianghan Ancient Path, in the southeast of China.
Designed by the Architectural Design & Research Institute of Zhejiang University Co., Ltd. (UAD), this glass bridge is suspended at a height of 201 meters and has a width of 8.8 meters. However, the most outstanding features of this work aren’t precisely its height, transparency, nor length.
The most impressive aspect about this bridge is that it’s a windproof construction. Since the Guangdong area is frequently affected by typhoons during the summer, the team performed wind tunnel testing and finite elements simulation to enhance lateral sustainability and wind resistance performance.
Additionally, to provide more strength to its structure, the designers of the UAD team adopted an oblique cable system that’s fixed to concrete anchors and makes the bridge virtually immune to blizzards.
Another peculiarity of the so-called “glass bridge” is the fact that it’s paved with three layers of 4.5-centimerter-thick ultra-clear tempered laminated glass. And while that might take transparency away from its structure, the case is that its optical transmittance (amount of light passing through a body) is 99.15%.
As if that wasn’t enough, this glazing endows the bridge deck with crystal-like luster, high transparency, and refractive index. In this regard, the project description of the UAD team states that “the glass, the guardrails composed of curved stainless-steel bars, the bridge tower and red main cables, together form a built landscape that combines the solid and void, the modern and the classical.”
Tailored to the environment
Built as a tourist attraction, the glass bridge has become a new local landmark and another good reason to visit China. However, while its main objective was to give a boost to the tourism industry of the region, this work was done following principles of respect for the land and nature that surrounds it.
Thus, the UAD team used their creativity and had the courage to overcome the obstacles and challenges that the project faced. The result: the revival of the natural environment and the construction of an innovative landscape that also contributes to economic development.
“Through blending the structure into the natural surroundings and deploying innovative construction methods, the design team realized the seamless integration of nature and the artificial”.
Certainly, this bridge is anything but common. And while it’s not the only one of its kind in China -apparently the Chinese aren’t afraid of heights- it offers a majestic view of the cliffs and the largest group of waterfalls in northern Guangdong, which is worth seeing from a suspended location between the earth and the sky.