Connection to Tranquility: The Calgary Peace Bridge

Located in the Province of Alberta, the City of Calgary is the home of 1,096,833 residents and the fifth largest metropolitan area in Canada. Also claiming 120,000 employees, it is a bustling municipality that is expected to grow substantially, with forecasts of approximately 40,000 new inhabitants and at least 60,000 additional workers by the year 2035. With so many commuters making their way to the city from the community of Sunnyside (which lies to the north of Calgary), plans for urban growth eventually turned to a means of accommodating a growing number that travel “by foot, bicycle, or in-line skates in and out of the city centre.” The result of this planning is now evident in a very unique pedestrian bridge that resolved a geographic dilemma presented by the Bow River, but which also signifies the need for world brotherhood and peace. Calgary is no stranger to the promotion of international cooperation, having hosted the XV Olympic Winter Games in February of 1988, which included the participation of fifty-seven nations and 1,423 athletes. Hence, it is probably quite natural the municipality would plan and construct a bridge that lies at the forefront of innovative architectural technique, and sports direct ties to a designer that played a major role in the aftermath and recovery from 911.

The Calgary Peace Bridge Is Helical With No Submerged Piers

The issue of worldwide cooperation and harmony seem to be a major concern of the city, from the top down – since the mayor has been known to declare an International Day of Peace and the city has even gone so far as to sponsor events celebrating peace. The city even declared the summer of 2012 in Calgary as the “Summer of Peace.” Likewise, the University of Calgary is home to the Consortium for Peace Studies, which awards a yearly peace prize to a person who has made the world “a safer and less violent place.” Keenly aware of events in New York City that occurred on September 1, 2001, as well as the exhausting effort to rebuild the area around ground zero, Calgary chose Santiago Calatrava, the internationally known Spanish engineer and architect who designed plans for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center PATH Terminal that had been destroyed in the horrific attacks of 911. Calatrava’s projects have been known to take on spiritual dimensions like this terminal, which when finished will resemble “a bird being released from a child’s hand.” In the case of the Calgary Peace Bridge, a peace-loving city reached out to the architect that had already achieved notoriety in communicating messages with his designs.

Receiving funding from the city’s capital budget, the construction of the Peace Bridge received approval on September 8, 2008. Its structure is helical, gently arching across the river without the aid of piers submerged in the water below. Calatrava had the bridge fashioned in Spain and shipped to Calgary in parts to be assembled on the scene at a temporary structure built upstream from the intended location, but routine inspection showed that some of the welds did not meet quality standards, and the assembly process screeched to a halt while the city made arrangements with local inspectors to verify and approve the construction. Originally intended to be dedicated in the fall of 2010, delays postponed the event until March 24, 2012, much to the chagrin of the Calgary citizenry.  Celebration of the grand opening included a blessing from an elder of the Blackfoot Nation, as well as “poetry, a Chinese lion dance, veterans parade and music from local entertainers.”  The bridge is intended purely for pedestrians and cyclists – no motorized vehicles. Originally, authorities believed that approximately 5000 daily commuters would use it as a means of accessing the downtown area of Calgary, but the actual number since its inception has been 6000 per day.

However, the propagation of peace does not come without cost – or criticism for that matter. With building delays that hindered its completion for well over a year, many cynics have denounced the Calgary Peace Bridge for its cost, which they claim ran well over budget. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) placed the bridge on a short list for its annual award for the most wasteful project in Canada when it comes to the use of taxpayers’ money. However, city officials countered these accusations, stating that the final cost would likely be about $30,400 per square meters, making it more economical than similar bridges that cater to the needs of pedestrians and cyclists. Other criticism has concerned the contract for Calatrava’s services, which in the opinion of some was granted without competition from other sources – in particular designers native to Calgary or Canada.

Nevertheless, there are those that have stood up to support the bridge – maintaining in the spirit of John Lennon that it’s time to “give peace a chance.” Speaking to this directive, these proponents say that it’s “time to put down our arms, stop the whining and complaining and embrace” a beautiful architectural creation that promotes peace – in a city of peace. In retrospect, they argue that the Peace Bridge is more economical than 2 other pedestrian bridges recently constructed in Fort Edmonton and Winnipeg – respectively costing $34,000 and $50,000 per metre. Officially, the Peace Bridge finally came in at $30,000 per metre. All things considered, they support Calatrava’s aesthetic masterpiece because “for its symbolic importance as a measure of where our city is heading, for its functional utility and its aesthetic quality, it was money well spent.”

The Calgary Peace Bridge Is a Pathway For Pedestrians and Cyclists

It doesn’t take much to imagine the concept of a bridge as a monument devoted to the fallen victims of terrorism. An aesthetically beautiful bridge, arching across a creek in Washington D. C. – complete with a plaque of dedication – would be kind of nice actually. Don’t forget to participate in our poll below.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

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From Russia With Tears: To the Struggle Against World Terrorism

Zurab Tsereteli is a Russian artist and architect who graduated from the world famous Tbilisi State Academy of Arts in Moscow. Despite controversy that surrounded his majestic and imaginative works of art and architecture, he rose to fame in the Soviet Union after befriending the mayor of Moscow and constructing a resort for children on the shores of the Black Sea at the town of Sochi – which will host the Olympic Winter Games in 2014.  At the culminate point of his fame, Tsereteli assumed the position of Professor and President of the Russian Academy of Arts, and he has at times been rumored to be involved in the construction of a Russian Disneyland. As evident in his efforts to help children, he has always been concerned about international cooperation and world peace through the promotion of culture and art – even taking on the founding role in promoting Russian support for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). He has also been very aware of efforts in the United States to promote a Special Olympics for disabled children, gaining a friendship with the founder, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, in the process. By the year 2001, Tsereteli had become a resident fixture in Moscow society – rising each morning and driving to his office at the Russian Academy of Arts along Moscow streets that took him right past the U. S. Embassy.

Zurab Tsereteli

On the morning of September 2, 2001, Tsereteli  was getting ready for work when news of the attacks on the World Trade Center began to emanate from the television set he was listening to as he hurried to leave his home. Moved to tears by what he saw that day, he immediately fell back on his artistic talent to express the deep feelings that enveloped and overwhelmed him – immediately setting upon sketching designs for a monument he dubbed “To the Struggle Against World Terrorism,” perhaps better known as the Teardrop Memorial.  As he drove to work that day with thoughts of this monument on his mind, his journey took him by large crowds of Russian people who were gathered outside the U. S. Embassy – a mass of crying people trying their best to express their sympathies to the United States for what had happened. Tsereteli identified with their feelings because he was in the same emotional quandary himself.

Russians React to the News of 911 outside the US Embassy in Moscow

Tsereteli’s design included a cylinder rising sharply from the ground, with a huge crack in the middle – where a large teardrop would be suspended, signifying both sorrow for the events of 911 and future hope for a world free of terror. He immediately made his way to ground zero in New York, in an effort to pick the proper site for his monument – which he fully intended to send to the United States as a gift and sign of international peace. Speaking with Russians who had witnessed the horror of 911, as well as Americans that he knew, he looked carefully for a location to place his monument. Ironically, the final place of honor for his artistic achievement is a parcel of land on a former military installation in New Jersey at the town of Bayonne, which had recently re-zoned the area as a park. The area where the World Trade Center had once stood was in plain sight, but the angle of perspective had always limited the view of the center to one building. Hence, the reason Tsereteli designed his monument with only one cylinder reaching to the sky, instead of two. The symbolism in his choice seems to reach out and say “there might have been 2 towers, but my single tower represents the one world we all live in, and the obvious need for peace this tragedy represents for that world.”

The “Teardrop Memorial”

The dedication for the Teardrop Memorial came on the 5th anniversary of 911. Former President Bill Clinton delivered a moving keynote speech, and Sergei Mironov, Chairman of the Council of Federation of the Russian Federal Assembly delivered words of sympathy to the American people and reminded all present that “the entire civilized world understands that terrorism has no boundaries and nationalities; it does not depend upon skin color or creed. We have to work together in an anti terrorist coalition … the most important thing is the security of citizens of every nation on our planet.” The national anthems of both nations were played, dignitaries from both sides shook hands and chatted about world peace, and former President Clinton thanked “his friend” Zurab Tsereteli for the wonderful gift he had bestowed on the United States. For a brief sliver of a moment, the world froze in place to meditate on its problematic future – and why peace is important to guaranteeing that future.

However, there is one very puzzling footnote to this historic event: most Americans are oblivious to the very existence of Tsereteli’s “Teardrop Memorial,” or the deep implications its dedication presented concerning the future of humanity and world peace. In fact, if you have read this far in this article there is probably an 80% chance that you had never heard of Tsereteli and his monument. The startling reason for this ignorance stems from the lack of mainstream media coverage the monument and its dedication received. It was even refused by the local government of Jersey City, and you would likely be nonplused by what Wikipedia says of this monument that fostered the deepest exchange of friendship between the United States and Russia since the founder of U. S. nautical might, John Paul Jones, honed his sailing skills in the Russian Navy.

Nevertheless, there is no denying the very deep statement on terrorism the Teardrop Memorial represents. Despite nicknames, such as “the biggest 9/11 memorial you’ve never heard of,” it stands as a reminder to the tragic death of those whose names are inscribed at the base of the cylinder. There is no doubt that, left unrecognized and unchecked, terrorism stands as a deadly menace to mankind’s future. However, for at least one day this ugly menacing monster, along with lingering remnants of the Cold War itself, fell to its knees in respect for peace. Be sure to participate in the poll below and let us know what you think.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

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