“On this day in 2004, the Millau Viaduct, which broke a number of world records for bridge height, was formally dedicated. Traversing the Tarn valley in France, the bridge was designed by the British architect Norman Foster and French structural engineer Michel Virogeux. At the highest point, one of the bridge’s seven pylons reaches an astonishing 343 metres–even higher than the Eiffel Tower.
The Millau Viaduct, considered a masterpiece of both design and structure, is foremost a bridge of purpose. It connects a primary artery along the route between Paris and Barcelona in southern France. Before its construction, traffic was prone to clog, especially during summer holiday time, as it winded through smaller roads around the town of Millau. The strategically placed 2.5 kilometre-long bridge would allow drivers, now numbering an estimated 10,000 per day, to bypass the twisting roads and smoothly soar across the picturesque valley.
Construction of the bridge began in October 2001 and cost upwards of 400 million euros when completed. It is comprised of seven pylons topped by masts supported by 154 steel cables, or stays. The deck is 2,460 metres long–making it the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world then–and weighs approximately 36,000 tonnes. When completed, the bridge broke a number of structural world records, including the highest pylons at 245 metres, the highest bridge tower (pylon and mast included) at 343 metres, and the highest road bridge deck at 270 metres.
Other enormous cable-stayed bridges include China’s Sutong Bridge with a height of 306 metres, Japan’s Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge at 298.3 metres, the Stonecutters Bridge, also in China, with a height of 298 metres, Denmark’s Great Belt East Bridge at 254 metres, and the US’s Golden Gate Bridge at 227.4 metres. A pair of bridges due for completion in 2012 in Mexico and Russia will stretch the records even further.
Like these other mammoth bridges, the Millau Viaduct has captured our collective imagination. Its singular beauty and complimentary design has drawn thousands of tourists to Millau and its environs. In 2006 the International Association of Bridge and Structural Engineers recognised it with an Outstanding Structure Award, noting its exceptional elegance and innovative construction.”
Credit: © Cro Magnon / Alamy
Caption: At the time of its dedication, the Millau Viaduct broke a number of world records for bridge height.