With historic landmarks such as the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem is hardly lacking in iconic architecture. But the city's latest aesthetic marvel the Chords Bridge is certainly the most impressive to debut in more than a millennium. Designed by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the bridge functions as a new entryway to western Jerusalem and the focal point of the Holy City's ambitious light-rail network.
While the Chords is Calatrava's 40th bridge, it's his first to carry both train and pedestrian traffic, requiring the master builder to find new ways of marrying art and engineering to support the heavier load. From the center of the 469-ft.-long (140 m) bridge, a signature Calatrava mast rises 387 ft. (118 m) above a pine-covered hillside. The spire is reminiscent of the architect's landmark Puente del Alamillo in Seville, though this time it's angled at its midpoint. Linking the Chords' peak and base are the 66 cables from which the bridge takes its name a contemporary homage to the harp, the favored instrument of Jerusalem's founder, King David.
While the bridge's form may have been inspired by the ancients, the materials used to build it are a mix of old and new. The exterior is mostly clad in pale, sand-colored Jerusalem stone, with steel, glass and concrete detailing. Calatrava has also included a street-level promenade and a park area to add a dose of humanity to what is now Jerusalem's tallest structure.
Costing $65 million, the Chords is the first prominent Middle Eastern project for Calatrava, who is also designing a new photography museum in Qatar. The bridge's opening in late June was the high point of Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations, and marks the start of Jerusalem's long-overdue modernization program. The swank Mamilla retail mall opened earlier this year, and a clutch of new hotels including a Waldorf Astoria overlooking the Old City will debut in the next two years. True, the Chords may not (yet) have history on its side. But it is already luring architecture fans to Jerusalem's first shrine of modern design.