The Portuguese city of Oporto has several historical and modern bridges linking both banks of the Douro River, already very close to its mouth in the Atlantic Ocean. But there are two that are real gems of 19th century architecture and engineering.
One is the María Pita Bridge, which when it was built in iron in 1877 became at the time the longest arch bridge in the world with its 160 meters of width. A bridge that was built for the passage of the railway and that was active until the 90s of the last 20th century. A true technical marvel that was conceived by the studio of Gustave Eiffel, already renowned before building the famous tower in Paris. And especially it was a work conceived by one of his most brilliant collaborators: the engineerTeophile Seyrig.
Don Luis I Bridge in Porto
He himself signed the project for the second of the bridges. The one that concerns us here and that has the name of Don Luis I, linking the center of Porto with the other riverside town opposite, Vila Nova de Gaiawhich is where some of the most famous cellars of the famous wine of the city are located.
Precisely the traffic of that wine through the river to the sea, was one of the reasons that Porto needed the construction of huge bridges like this one. It is a wonder, built entirely of iron. YAlso in this case, the enormous arch that serves as a distinctive and structural element is striking. But the Don Luis I Bridge in Porto has the novelty of having two different boards. A lower one that reaches a length of 175 meters and that today continues to allow the passage of vehicles and pedestrians. And an upper deck, higher and much longer, since it extends for about 400 meters, where pedestrians and the city metro also pass today. Thus, with its two heights, it adapts perfectly to the broken profile of the terrain that this city has.
Without a doubt works like these have a lot to do with engineering, but there are also a lot of art and aesthetics. The iron architecture at this time became a novelty and a trend that combined functionality with its particular appeal. Not only now when they are works that can even be considered a World Heritage Site, as may be the case of the Vizcaya Hanging Bridge. They were also much admired at the time they were built.
Somehow it was a new answer to the most classic. It was a more material and also more abstract beauty, which used, on the one hand, a new material but which could resort to already known forms such as arches, pillars or vaults, but totally reformed. And all this at a time in history when industry was completely changing the face of cities and, above all, ways of life.