Millau Viaduct


Bridges are often considered to belong to the realm of the engineer rather than 
that of the architect. But the architecture of infrastructure has a powerful impact on 
the environment and the Millau Viaduct, designed in close collaboration with 
structural engineers, illustrates how the architect can play an integral role in the 
design of bridges. It follows the Millennium Bridge over the River Thames in 
expressing a fascination with the relationships between function, technology and 
aesthetics in a graceful structural form. 
Located in southern France, the bridge connects the motorway networks of France 
and Spain, opening up a direct route from Paris to Barcelona. The bridge crosses 
the River Tarn, which runs through a spectacular gorge between two high plateaux. 
Interestingly, alternative readings of the topography suggested two possible 
structural approaches: to celebrate the act of crossing the river or to articulate the 
challenge of spanning the 2.46 kilometres from one plateau to the other in the 
most economical manner. Although historically the river was the geological 
generator of the landscape, it is very narrow at this point, and so it was the second 
reading that suggested the most appropriate structural solution.  
A cable-stayed, masted structure, the bridge is delicate, transparent, and has the 
optimum span between columns. Each of its sections spans 342 metres and its 
columns range in height from 75 metres to 245 metres (equivalent to the height of 
the Eiffel Tower), with the masts rising a further 90 metres above the road deck. To 
accommodate the expansion and contraction of the concrete deck, each column 
splits into two thinner, more flexible columns below the roadway, forming an Aframe above deck level. The tapered form of the columns both expresses their 
structural loads and minimises their profile in elevation. Not only does this give the 
bridge a dramatic silhouette, but crucially, it also makes the minimum intervention in 
the landscape.
description by architects


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