Millau Viaduct – Tallest Bridge of The World in France

The Millau Viaduct is a cable-stayed bridge, built to complete the A75 motorway in France which towers 1,025 feet over the Tarn Valley near Millau, France.

An amazing futuristic structure, the Millau Viaduct is a giant of steel and concrete. Millau viaduct holds the world record for the tallest bridge, culminating at 343 metres (higher than the Eiffel tower), 2460 metres long and touching the bottom of the Tarn valley in only 9 places. Opened in 2004 to close the “missing link” on the A75 autoroute that connects Paris in the north to Perpignan in the south, the Millau Viaduct was the result of 17 years of ideas, proposals, and design that resulted in shaving 37 miles off the former route through the region. But rather than choose a mundane design that simply did the job, the French went big. Very big. And it works.

Towering achievement

The Award recognizes the most remarkable, innovative, creative or otherwise stimulating structures completed within the last few years. It consists of a Plaque to be fixed to the structure and Diplomas for the Structural Engineer, the Architect, the Contractor, and the Owner. The Millau Viaduct received the Outstanding Structure Award for being ‘an elegant, slender bridge soaring above a deep valley connecting two plateaus which was constructed using an innovative launching procedure which advanced the state of practice in bridge construction’.

Structure of Highest Cable-Stayed Bridge

Millau Viaduct Bridge

Millau Viaduct Bridge

The structure is a cable-stayed bridge. Siplast has worked closely with the customer to find solutions to the particular constraints of the project steel deck to waterproof a total surface of 70.000 sqm. 2 machines have ensured the installation of the waterproofing membrane Parafor Pont.Built from 250 000 tonnes of concrete and 36 000 tonnes of steel, this 2500m long by 32m wide giant is supported by seven piers (the highest culminates at 245m).

The road to construction was lengthy, with initial studies beginning in 1988. By June of the following year, the Center for Technical Equipment Studies in Aix-en-Provence had selected a design featuring a bridge, in part because it would avoid the need for a tunnel as well as causing little impact on the environment. In addition, although some valley residents protested a bridge, local politicians had made it plain for the previous 20 years or so that they viewed a bridge as the best answer to the difficulty.
Detailed studies began in 1993 and in 1994 a restricted design competition began, limited to submissions by five teams of architects. In summer 1996, the winning cooperative was announced, consisting of French engineers Sogelerg, based in Echirolles, Europe; Etudes Gecti of Villeurbanne, Simecscol, headquartered in Sevres; Consultant Michel Virlogeux, and British Architects Foster & Partners of London.
Viewed from a distance, the upper part of the Millau Viaduct resembles a line of billowing, cobwebby sails, presenting an airy and light appearance that effectively conceals its structural components.

The steel cables supporting the Millau Viaduct are anchored on 87m high pylons.The height between the base of the highest pier (located at the lowest point of the valley) and the top of the pylon located just above it is 343m, namely 19m higher than the Eiffel Tower!The bridge is not only attractive but it was also designed to withstand any potential seismic shock and extreme weather conditions.Millau Viaduct is not only a feat of engineering but a true masterpiece of contemporary art.

Cause to build it

The Millau Viaduct was born out of a growing tangle of traffic on the route from Paris to Spain. The worst area was the pass through the Tarn River gorge near the town of Millau. The first plans were drawn up in 1987. Seven architect and eight engineering firms were consulted on how to solve the traffic issue. In 1996 the government solicited designs and the final verdict favored a cable-stayed design with multiple spans. The first great challenge was deciding on the route. Of the four options the route west of Millau, which was supported by local opinion, presented the most challenging technical difficulties, especially the issue of crossing the valley of the Tarn. The other routes were eliminated for a variety of reasons including insurmountable technical issues and negative environmental impact.

Local tourist attractions

The Millau Viaduct Information Centre is located in the small village of Cazalous at the base of the bridge on the RD 992 between Albi and Millau, and is well worth a visit particularly as admission is free. It opens daily at 10am, and closes at 7pm in summer and 5pm in winter. In addition to the souvenir shop at the Cazalous visitor centre there is also one at the Brocuéjouls A75 motorway service station situated between exits 45 and 46, which sells some excellent books and photos of the Millau Viaduct, plus viaduct-themed souvenirs such as pens, mugs and placemats.

Millau itself is home to a number of interesting attractions such as the Glove Museum, the botanical garden “Jardin Botanique des Causses” and the Micropolis “City of Insects”. This charming town also has some attractive architecture centered around the 12th century Place du Maréchal Foch including ancient arcades, beautiful frescoes in the Notre Dame de l’Espinasse church and the Belfry, a 12th century square tower. And of course everywhere there are views of the magnificent Millau Viaduct. A number of annual festivals and events are held in Millau and the surrounding region, including a Jazz festival “Millau en Jazz”, Festival a Millau, the Cardabelles Car Rally and the Mineral Fair.

A visit to the Millau Viaduct is also an opportunity to enjoy other nearby places of interest, such as the underground caves where the famous Roquefort cheese is produced. Make sure you try some of this pungent delicacy fresh from the region where it is created. Only 2km from Millau are the remains of Condatomagus, a center for Roman pottery which produced terracotta items with a distinctive red glaze. The region of Lozère is also home to the spectacular Tarn gorge, an area of outstanding natural beauty over 80 km in length and famous for its sheer cliffs up to 500 meters high, and where activity holidays such as hiking and kayaking are extremely popular.

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