Sunday, November 15, 2009

Khaju Bridge

The Khaju Bridge (پل خواجو) is one of the most famous bridges in Isfahan, Iran and has roused the admiration of travelers since the 17th century. Shah Abbas II built it on the foundations of an older bridge around 1650. It has 23 arches and is 105 meters long and 14 meters wide. It links the Khaju quarter on the north bank with the Zoroastrian quarter across the Zayandeh River. It also functions as a weir; the downstream side is formed as a series of steps carrying the water to a much lower level.  

The Khaju Bridge is located at the east end of Kamal Ismael Isfahani street and the south end of Khaju street. The pass way of the bridge is 7.5 meters wide, made of bricks and stones with 21 larger and 26 smaller inlet and outlet channels. The pieces of stone used in this bridge are over 2 meters long and the distance between every channel and the ceiling base is 20 meters. The existing inscriptions suggest that the bridge was repaired in 1873.  

The bridge is an arch bridge and thus does not need cables or additional supports. It is a semicircular structure with abutments on each end (part of a structure that bears the weight or pressure of an arch). The arches shift the weight from the bridge deck to the support structure. The force of compression is pushed outward along the curve of the arch toward the abutments.  

It has been said that Shah Abbas’s goal in constructing this bridge was to connect the areas of Khaju and Hasan Abad with Takht’e Foolad and the road to Shiraz.  

On the upper level of the bridge, the main central aisle was utilized by horses and carts and the vaulted paths on either side by pedestrians. Original 17th century paintings and beautiful tile work are still viewable on the bridge today. Octagonal pavilions in the center of the bridge on both the down and the upstream sides house an art gallery and teahouses and provide vantage points for the remarkable views. The lower level of the bridge may be accessed by pedestrians and remains a popular shady place for relaxing.  

Khaju is one of the bridges that regulate the water flow in the river because there are sluice gates under the archways over the river. When the sluice gates are closed, the water level behind the bridge is raised to facilitate the irrigation of the many gardens along the river upstream of this bridge. In 2008, the Khaju Bridge, described as one of the world's great "multifunctional" bridges, made the list of the world's 10 most amazing bridges at number nine. 

Instead of using proper archaeological tools and competently trained archaeologists, restorers, etc. authorities have often used conventional construction methods, tools and personnel, ultimately resulting in irreversible damage to ancient Iranian sites. There is currently an “improvement” project in place which is in fact damaging the structural and historical integrity of the Khaju Bridge. 


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