Rainbow Gate

Under the bridge in Johannesburg, there’s no water. In 2003, for lack of a river, city authorities decided to build Africa’s 284-metre and longest cable-stayed bridge over the 42 railway lines of Joburg’s Park Station. Bridging the divide between the lively Braamfontein and Newtown districts, it’s named after the man who connected the nation after years of separation.

For the past seven years the bridge was badly lit, with only a few modern street lights illuminating the road.

Today, without any ceremony, the new lighting for the bridge was revealed. Powerful batteries of latest technology LED lights illuminate each cable and the main pylons.

Specialised lighting engineers from the Philips Lighting LED factory in the US flew in to install the lamps. Cool new LED technology allows these powerful lights to change colour, and this is done to great effect on the Mandela Bridge, which slowly shifts hues between the colours of South Africa’s flag, plus a few more. Perhaps a few too many colours for some tastes, but when we were admiring the lights tonight together with a foreign film crew, a beaming local pulled up alongside us in his bakkie, saying “Looking very nice eh?”. During the World Cup, the lights will be set to the team colours playing that day; every afternoon a guy from Philips will go there to programme the correct flag colours.

The bridge looks especially good from the M1 highway bridge a little to the west, from where you have the city skyline in the background, though there’s nowhere to stop and get out of the car there without being crushed by traffic.

Here are some first impressions of the bridge by night – with my favourite Philips lighting engineer proudly posing with ‘her bridge’ in the last photo.

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