Hero’s glass bridge in China, feel like Batman

Why China is closing its famous glass bridges: A history of transparent architecture

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Man in his quest for beauty often tries to combine the incongruous. Transparent structures, floating in the sky, give us a unique feeling of freedom, but no one wants to compromise the main thing – the safety. A little over 150 years ago was built the first major building with transparent walls. About 10 years ago in China, they created the first glass bridge, and over the years in pursuit of tourists in China built several thousand of these sights. Last year, however, the country’s authorities began closing popular attractions en masse.

From greenhouse to skyscraper

The path of glass in architecture has been long: over several hundred years, from tiny transparent pieces that were inserted in the walls for the sake of grains of light, we have reached glass skyscrapers, in which it seems that the sky really is near. The first milestone on this arduous journey was the Crystal Palace, built in London in 1851 specifically for the First World’s Industrial Exhibition.

In principle the building was a huge greenhouse – it was built on the same principles of wooden frames, sheet glass, iron beams and cast-iron supports and was not very expensive. After a couple of years the structure was disassembled and moved to a new location in south-east London. The palace gave its name to the adjacent South London district, the railway station, the television tower complex and the Crystal Palace soccer club.

Bruno Tout, The Glass Pavilion, 1914

Glass architecture made the leap from greenhouses to residential buildings only in the XX century, when with the help of science builders obtained new materials: laminated, tempered glass and high-quality flat glass. They soon began to be used as materials for supporting structures.

The way over the abyss

Transparent bridges were the logical apotheosis of the desire for freedom that glass gives to man. Structures, over which you can feel yourself soaring over the abyss, are quite nerve-racking, but that’s what makes them so appealing. After 2005, there has been a boom in similar structures all over the world. The Lugner Bridge in Vienna, the “Skywalk” over the Grand Canyon in Arizona and the pedestrian part over the Tower Bridge in London showed the whole world that you can and should build transparent structures in the air.

Tower Bridge, London

The undisputed champion in the construction of glass bridges was China. In less than ten years in China have appeared 2,300 bridges with a transparent cloth, as well as countless “walking paths” and sites. The undoubted record holder, the Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge, is also here – the longest and highest in the world. In 2016, it set ten world records at once, covering its design and construction. The structure is 430 meters long and 6 meters wide, suspended 260 meters above the ground. It can hold 800 pedestrians at a time.

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Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge

And for those for whom the usual “invisible” bridges no longer tickle the nerves, in China you can find more extreme glass entertainment. For example, transparent slides or trails over the abyss, where tourists are frightened by special effects: artificial cracks in the glass, which appear directly under your feet, can give any brave person a heart attack.

Dangerous entertainment

However, at the end of 2019, the Chinese government came to an unpleasant decision – there was an urgent need to check all bridges and put at least some order in the popular and profitable business. In China’s Hebei province, all 32 glass structures were closed for safety checks, and unfinished projects were frozen. The reason for the emergency measures were several accidents.

It turned out that there have always been problems with glass bridges and platforms, but for obvious reasons they tried not to advertise them. In 2015, for example, glass cracked on one section of a viewing platform in Henan province. It happened about two weeks after its opening. The local authorities then explained the incident by the fact that one of the tourists dropped a heavy thermos cup on the panel. In 2016, visitors to the Zhangjiajie glass bridge were injured by falling rock debris.

Glass bridges are not for the faint-hearted.

In June 2019, a visitor to a glass “slide” in Guangxi province died. Rolling down from 260 meters high, the tourists had to brake with their hands wearing special gloves, but unexpected rain made the surface too slippery and the extremist flew off the track, gaining too much speed. The enormous height of such structures makes any misstep fatal.

In 2019, the record of the Zhangjiajie Bridge was broken by a new 500-meter giant in Jiangsu province in eastern China, but the new attraction had to be closed a week after the grand opening because of an accident. A man slipped on wet glass after the rain, broke the railing and fell from a height. After that incident the Chinese government finally got worried about the safety of tourists on glass bridges. In the first days of the inspection it became clear that there are still no common standards and requirements for the construction and operation of such facilities in China, and many of them were built in a hurry in order to meet the plan in time (unfortunately, it is too well known to us practice).

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 Huangtengxia Glass Bridge with Waterfall in Guangdong province.

Now it has been about a year since local provincial authorities were obliged to inspect all “aerial attractions”. However, this is not an easy task, because it is believed that the figure of 2,300 units is only official data, and there are also unregistered glass bridges and platforms. It is hoped that the PRC will bring order to this issue, the dangerous structures will be modernized, and new quality standards will be introduced in the country. Most likely, those of the bridges, which now accept visitors, have already passed this test.

Tendency to the extreme is not an omen of our time at all so, back in the 19th century, the most extreme railroad was built, on which the tramway rode.

The Glass Bridge in China – the whole truth about the sight

Modern architectural capabilities make it possible to create amazing constructions. One of them is the “China Skywalk,” which has been stirring the minds of its visitors for several years in a row!

Glass bridge in China

Where is the Glass Bridge in China?

The longest glass bridge in the world is located in a picturesque place – the Grand Canyon of Zhangjiajie. This place for the construction was not chosen by chance. The canyon will amaze all the tourists with incredible views of the sunset and sunrise. The height of the bridge is 300 meters you can see through the transparent floor of the architectural marvel! It creates the optical illusion as if you are walking on air – it is very difficult and scary to take the first step.

Zhangjiajie Wulingyuan (zhangjiajie) is an Avatar movie in the real world. This mountainous area can remind you of landscapes from the fantastic, fictional planet “Pandora”, which exists in the movie universe of “Avatar”.

From the glass bridge you can see the adjacent nature reserves and the mountain system – Tianmen. These areas are some of the first nature reserves in the world, allowing tourists to enjoy the amazing nature preserved since the early days of the state of China.

Glass Bridge Description

Knowing how amazing and diverse China can be, the glass bridge in the mountains doesn’t look amazing at all, but it is:

  • Height of the transparent bridge: 300 meters;
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On it there are comfortable viewing platforms and places for extreme recreation (you can jump with bungee jumping).

  • Passage width: 6 meters.

This width does not make it difficult to walk across the bridge, and creates a feeling of no sides – you just walk “through the air” and nothing more.

“The glass sky of China” – as this architectural structure of the century is also sometimes called. This name is related to Chinese mythology. In Chinese myths, the sky is a symbol of divinity and power. Whoever walks in the sky has incredible magical powers.

Bridge

When was it discovered?

“The Glass Ride” (as the Chinese sometimes call it) was opened on August 20, 2016. At first, the bridge was opened in test mode – no more than 600 tourists a day and by pre-order of a ticket, but later – this measure was canceled and the bridge functions in standard mode (800 tourists in one go).

The construction lasted more than 5 years. During the construction several workers died. Their names are called several mountains (previously had no name), which are visible from the observation deck. Climbing up the stairs to the bridge, you can learn these workers biographies – they are written on special plaques. The stairs have convenient handrails and a container with first-aid equipment, which is located every 300 meters.

At the opening ceremony, the head of the Zhangjiajie urban district ceremonially cut the ribbon – this event became a national holiday for the entire country, and Beijing issued a postage stamp commemorating the completion of construction.

Bridge

The length of the bridge

Almost half a kilometer in the Zhangjiajie area, the glass bridge allows two hiking trails to be connected. Walking on it itself is an attraction that evokes wonder and an unusual sense of freedom.

Along its entire length, hikers can picture themselves “floating in the air” over the abyss.

Tourist guides will personally recommend the best way for you to take these kinds of photos.

Who built it and how?

This chilling suspension bridge was built by the Chinese government. The cost of the order was 3.4 million dollars. The completed project set 10 world records at once!

The beginning of the construction began with the installation of special (architectural) supporting pillars, which visually look very light – this was conceived by the architects on purpose. Such a solution allowed once again to emphasize the effect of “floating above the ground” for tourists.

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Bridge

The transparent bridge has a base in the form of a steel frame. On that frame 120 glass panels for walking (instead of traditional asphalt) were put on it. The material for these panels can be called “glass” only conventionally – the material is much stronger, but has a similar transparency to glass.

At the same time, the glass bridge in China is cracking. The fact is that it has recently been embedded several screens, which mimic the glass. When passing over them, holographic cracks form under the feet of tourists and a pre-recorded sound of broken glass can be heard. The guide may not warn his “charges” about this, which causes real, genuine emotions of shock, but this is only part of the attraction to entertain visitors. Human effort is not enough to make the bridge really crack – (if you set yourself such a task) you have to use special tools to make it crack.

Thickness of the transparent covering of the bridge is 15 centimeters and is not inferior to concrete in its strength. To walk on such a surface over an abyss with one’s feet is allowed.

Architecturally, the “heavenly” character of the bridge is emphasized by the decorative and functional elements of the steel frame suspension, which adds to the unusual appearance and strength of the structure.

Safety measures

Safety precautions on the glass bridge are the same as on a conventional bridge, but with a few exceptions:

  • Do not use selfie sticks;

This precaution is caused by several cases of losing them. Tourists would stick them out of the sides of the bridge for beautiful photographs, and the gusty wind would carry such “photo tools” away from their owners under the bridge.

Bridge

  • Taking heavy luggage with you;

Before passing, the weight of your luggage is sure to be weighed on a special scale and asked to lay out heavy items. After the end of the tourist trip – the items are returned to their owners. Also, this is due to the fact that a 2015 missed thermos filled with liquid was able to make a micro-crack at the junction of the two panels. Technically, it wasn’t really a crack, just a detachment of one of the composite parts of the panel, which wasn’t life-threatening for visitors. However, the decision was made to ban heavy carry-on luggage.

  • No walking with a cane.

The tips of canes can get clogged with small stones. The strength of such stones (quartz) is extremely high – they can leave scuffs and scratches.

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How do you get to an architectural masterpiece?

There are several ways to get to it and in several stages – these are:

Getting to Zhangjiajie National Park:

Chinese airlines have regular flights from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xi’an, Changsha, Shenyang, Qingdao.

There are regular trains from any city. It is recommended, for a faster trip, to calculate your route so as to travel the maximum distance on the high-speed train, and after – to change to a regular train – so faster.

Bridge

At the Zhangjiajie bus station, buy a ticket to the Grand Canyon. The buses are air-conditioned and have guided tour programs.

Purchase your ticket at the ticket office or present your pre-purchased ticket for a pass to the tourist area, which includes “heavenly sky”.

Myths and facts about the attraction

  • Chinese authorities conceal the number of people who fell off a bridge.

This cannot be true. Since the world’s longest bridge is the pride of the Chinese nation, a count of all tourists is conducted. This is done in order to improve safety and detect (at an early stage) possible problems in the structure. Any journalist, using the journalist’s right to information, can obtain this data on the first request to the authorities.

  • “China’s Air Trail shakes as it walks.

This is pure truth. It is done intentionally to reduce the stress on the steel frame. Some have noted that this is what makes the “scary,” suspension bridge crack, but that’s not entirely accurate. Shaking is cushioning that allows the bridge to be more resistant to winds and to possible changes in geologic terrain (spacing of supports).

Bridge

Tourist Reviews

Reviews from a tourist trip to Zhangjiajie are positive. It is noted the high service and informative guides.

Photographs made on the glass miracle cause genuine interest in social networks and the personal environment of tourists.

On the network you can find the vast majority of exclusively positive comments and feedback from visiting this attraction.

Bridge

Conclusion

For those who are looking for unusual places to shoot and want to see something grandiose, stunning, setting world records – the glass Chinese bridge is the perfect place to visit!

Extremes can enjoy not only the opportunity to “walk on the sky” at a height of 300 meters, but also be able to make bungee jumps.

The bridge is safe, interesting and can leave only lasting impressions!

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