The historic Vizcaya Bridge bestrides the mouth of Ibaizabal estuary in Western Bilbao. The bridge was designed by a famous Basque architect Alberto de Palacio in 1893. The bridge stretches over a distance of 160 meters over a height of 45 meters. The 19th century bridge combines the traditional ironworks with the new technology of twisted steel ropes.
The bridge boasts the tag of being the first in the world to carry people and traffic on a suspended gondola. The bridge would serve as an important prototype for subsequent similar bridges in Europe, America and Africa; a few of which still survive to date.
The innovative technology of twisted steel cables is regarded as a pivotal invention of the Industrial revolution that not only helped engineers build bridges, but also build high rise buildings.
The bridge came up as a result of extensive iron works in the Basque region. The area had mined iron from roman times, but from the 13th to 16th century iron was exported to France and other European countries from an approximate 300 Basque Ironworks. By the 18th century, Basque iron was being used to construct agricultural implements for the colonized lands in South America.
In the dying years of the 19th century, iron works reached their peak of output with adoption of newer technology from the scientific labs that led to industrial revolution. Among the other industries that developed around the River Ibaizabal and Bilbao is ship building. At the height of the trade, about 12 million tons of goods were being exported via River Ibaizabal. As industry developed around the western bank of the Estuary, a need arose for the construction of a bridge.
The iconic nature of the bridge is visible from the elaborate ironwork that was used to make it. The bridge has been described as ‘elegant and grand, a proof of the extraordinary wealth of Bilbao’. The Bridge was opened on 16th June 1893 and has continuously operated since the Spanish Civil War.
There is no better place to take a good photograph in Spain than at the Vizcaya Bridge.