30 June 2013

Banpo – The World’s Longest Double Decker Fountain Bridge

The South Korean capital of Seoul is a mega city with over ten million inhabitants.  As such, space for infrastructure is at a premium so when the city needed a new bridge over the river Han in the early 1980s there was a simple solution offered by architects: build it on top of the existing bridge and make it a double decker.  The citizens of Seoul Special City (to give the metropolis its full name) loved the bridge so much that six years ago they added the longest bridge fountain in the world.

Banpo Rainbow Bridge at Night - Seoul, South Korea
Your average citizen of Seoul would know where you were going if you asked for the Banpo Bridge. Yet, strictly speaking that name only describes the top part of the structure – the top bridge as it were.  The one below it is called the Jamsu Bridge.  In for a penny, the bridge’s water feature was given its own, suitably modest name – the Magic Rainbow Fountain.

When the fountain is not in action you can clearly see the two decks which make up the Banpo and Jamsu bridges.

Beautiful Fountain at a Bridge in Seoul - Banpo Bridge
As well as the claim to fame as the longest fountain bridge in the world, the lower, Jamsu Bridge is also something quite remarkable in as much as it was designed to be regularly flooded.  Seoul occasionally gets more than its fair share of rainfall and so as the Han rises, the bridge, which is close to the waterline, is regularly submerged.  Needless to say during these periods it is closed to the pedestrians and cyclists who normally cross it.

Image Credit Flickr User JaYeon Lee
Image Credit Flickr User Shiwon Jon
The Magic Rainbow Fountain immediately broke the Guinness World Record for the world’s longest bridge fountain when it opened in 2009, much to the delight of the population of Seoul.  It has close on 10,000 LED lights running across both sides of the 1 495 meter bridge.

Image Credit Flickr User JeffSchulman
Image Credit Flickr User Jamie Carter
The fountain came about not just because of a potentially debatable sense of aesthetics. The city elders wished to re-invigorate the Seocho and Yongsan districts which the bridge connects and to create a space for cultural and leisure activities for citizens and international visitors to enjoy the scenery of the river.

Image Credit Flickr User Jamie Carter
Image Credit Flickr User Shiwon Cho
The enormous spouts are created by the use of 38 pumps which feed a total of 720 water nozzles.  The fountain is considered eco-friendly as the water is pumped straight from the Han River and is recycled again and again.  Just don’t mention the electricity it takes to affect that, or indeed the bill for the lighting.

Image Credit Flickr User HB Kang
Banpo Bridge
Image Credit (c) Flickr User Julius M
The pumps draw a staggering 10 tons of water each minute from the river, which is twenty meters below the (top) Banpo Bridge.  The nozzles are a little more powerful than your average garden sprinkler and shoot water close to 50 meters horizontally. That would lead to some water fight, if used domestically.

Banpo Bridge
Image Credit Flickr User Keith Homan
Banpo Bridge
Image Credit Flickr User Thomas Osborne
The river Han has seen many bridges since the city was founded over 2,000 years ago.  Yet, no doubt, none have been made in to quite such a spectacular water feature as the Banpo.

First Image Credit Wikimedia