Thursday, March 22, 2012

Calgary celebrates opening of Santiago Calatrava's Peace Bridge

Santiago Calatrava's Peace Bridge
Drawing courtesy Santiago Calatrava 

The last time I was in Alberta was July 2010, making my debut at the Calgary Stampede. At the time, I hadn't heard about the Peace Bridge that would be built across the Bow River. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, the red twisting helix-shaped pedestrian bridge is scheduled to open on Saturday, March 24, 2012

Calatrava is a Spanish architect, sculptor and structural engineer known for his soaring, vertical icons. Highlights include the Milwaukee Art Museum in Wisconsin, Athens Olympic Sports Complex and the Quarto Ponte sul Canal Grande in Venice.

The Peace Bridge is a low, single-span bridge designed to meet geometrical constraints. Due to a no-fly zone above the bridge (there's a heliport nearby), plus the high water and ice levels of the river below, there was a space of only seven meters to create the span. The Peace Bridge was also designed without any supporting piers in the riverbed, in order to minimize environmental impact. All of these parameters influenced Calatrava's decision to concoct a tubular steel truss bridge.

Calatrava took other elements into consideration when designing the bridge commissioned by the City of Calgary. They include harsh winters, bicyclists, joggers and walkers who would use the river's pathways and bridges during extreme weather. 

The result is a permeable, enclosed bridge that functions during winter as well as summer. As with any major public project, there has been no lack of controversy over the cost and delays of the bridge (Calgarians making peace with Peace Bridge as opening day nears). A celebration is planned for Saturday, March 24, that will include city officials, dignitaries and members of Bike Calgary. The general public is invited.

City of Calgary-Peace Bridge Celebration - 3/24/2012
The celebration begins at 2 PM at the open area at the south end of the bridge with music, food trucks, information displays and local celebrities. On stage with be a Blackfoot Nation elder blessing and poetry reading. The first crossing of the bridge will be led by members of the Scottish Tradition School of Piping, who will lead war veterans across the span, while the Green Fools stilt walkers will accompany the public. Entertainment begins at 2:15 PM with performances both both the stage and bridge. The live music includes: Robot Workers, The Original Rudes and Grim Reminder, Spencer Jo & the Mandrills, Nix Dicksons, Locomotive Ghost and the Calgary Chinese Cultural Society performers. 

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