Water under a Troubled Bridge?

I guess all the hullabaloo has worn down somewhat over Calatrava’s new Peace Bridge for Calgary but I thought I would weigh in with a pithy(ish) post.  I agree; $25 million is a lot to spend on a foot bridge.  But there is a bigger context here – Calgary is moving into the leagues of a big, important city, yet it is one that because of its boom bust cycle really hasn’t built much civic infrastructure or architecture of note.  No grand boulevards, few interesting buildings or any sort.  The Centre Street bridge is lovely, and I’m sure there were similar people 100 years ago decrying it as an extravagence.  The Glenbow Museum could be a bomb shelter, and most everything else downtown is a glass box put up over a weekend in 1981. Calgary is one of the wealthiest cities in N. America – that the city should start to place more weight on city beautification, using philanthropic donations where possible (though this is a struggle here as everywhere in Canada) is a no brainer.  Toronto is spending $1.5 billion on its waterfront (in addition to $1 billion in public money on the ROM, AGO and new opera house), and the only complaint you hear is that it should be doing more and faster.  I won’t even mention Chicago (Millenium Park *sigh*).  I shudder at the “outrage” that will greet plans for a new downtown library; maybe we can just put up some trailers when the old building collapses – very cost effective . Anyway, my point is that occasionally building pretty public buildings actually is a central role of municipal governments;  it used to be accepted that public buildings be grand – look at the beautiful sandstone public schools built here 100years ago.  I don’t know what has created this parsimonious and curmudgeonly view here revealed by this bridge; I hope when finished it will serve that elsewhere understood role of nice structures; to make people feel good, and pride of place, and maybe, just maybe see their reflexive small-mindedness for what it is.


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