The city of Jerusalem is a historical epicenter, filled with holy sites that have been pilgrimaged to for thousands of years.
It is also home to one thoroughly modern bridge.
The Jerusalem Chords Bridge goes by many aliases—the Jerusalem Bridge of Strings, the Jerusalem Light Rail Bridge—but is instantly recognizable to anyone who sees it.
Inaugurated in 2008, the $70 million bridge runs along the entrance to Jerusalem, adding 1,280 feet of steel cable to the city’s iconic skyline.
The structure was designed by Spanish engineer Santiago Calatrava and is used by Jerusalem’s Light Rail Red Line to scurry transit to and from. The bridge also includes a glass-sided pedestrian walk to allow visitors a crossing from Kiryat Moshe to the Jerusalem Central Bus Station.
Calatrava was invited in 2005 by then-Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert to construct the bridge, challenged to craft “the most beautiful contemporary bridge” in the world. The construction was originally budgeted to cost just $20 million.
Calatrava said his intent behind the bridge’s design was to “give character and unity to this delicate place.” The engineer crafted the bridge to look almost like a desert tent, with the cables meant to look like strings on King David’s harp.
Time Magazine called it Jerusalem’s “first shrine of modern design.”
There have been some naysayers, however. Detractors cite the cost, more than double the original estimate, as well as the anachronistic feeling of the bridge as complaints.
Still, the Jerusalem Chords Bridge has already found its way into works of art, as in painter Jonathan Kis-Lev’s portrait of the Jerusalem skyline, hinting that the construction is already an accepted part of the city’s lore.
The bridge includes a 118-meter high mast supported by 66 steel cables. The cables create a three-dimensional shape, and the mast made the bridge the tallest point in Jerusalem at the time of the bridge’s completion.
The exterior of the bridge is cast in pure Jerusalem stone, a type of pale limestone.
The Jerusalem Chords Bridge was Calatrava’s 40th bridge, but his first designed to carry both traffic and pedestrians.