Most Influential Projects 2022

21 Lvzhijiang Bridge

Lvzhijiang Bridge

For opening up mobility options by pushing the limits of structural engineering to new heights—and lengths

China’s Yunnan province serves up magnificent scenery—which often gets in the way of mobility. One team found a way to (literally) bridge that gap with a record-breaking feat of engineering that connects two sides of a deep canyon. The result is certainly stunning: a bridge that seems, on one end, to almost levitate of its own accord. But it’s more than just architectural eye candy: The Lvzhijiang Bridge transforms what was once a 90-minute affair into a two-minute jaunt—potentially bringing tourism to the area and boosting the local economy.

How did the team deliver? By redefining what makes a suspension bridge a suspension bridge. In most cases, the deck hangs from several vertical cables, which are themselves held in place by towers that punctuate the bridge’s span and anchor those cables. Picture the iconic rust-hued pillars of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge or the instantly recognizable twin towers of London’s Tower Bridge. 

Now imagine that instead of two towers, only one mammoth tower holds the bridge’s web of cables in place—and that the bridge is 798 meters (2,618 feet) from end to end. The resulting structure is the Lvzhijiang Bridge, billed as the longest single-tower suspension bridge ever forged. 

Led by China Railway Group Limited, the project took roughly three years to complete, in part because at each end a tunnel is bored through a steep rock face. 

The rocky terrain also forced another innovation: parts of the bridge were fabricated just beneath the future span, then hoisted into place as they were completed. As the bridge’s project manager explained in a state-media interview: “The complexity of this project is rarely seen in China.” 

Built with mobility in mind, the bridge debuted in March and now serves as a powerful connection point, linking Yuxi City and Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture with existing expressways and providing improved access to neighboring countries, including Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos. While the journey between the two sides of the canyon used to be a 90-minute affair, the Lvzhijiang Bridge shortens that trip to a mere two minutes.