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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The Wall for Peace: A Parisian Wailing Wall

There are times when a certain custom, way of life, or creative expression make so much sense to the human race that they are adapted to fit other circumstances, with the hope a similar result will occur. “What goes around comes around” – or maybe “the best inventions never lose their purpose” might be sayings that would apply in this scenario. Such is the case with the Paris Wall for Peace, the creation of artist Clara Halter, who conceived of the scheme, and architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, the man who drew the plans and delivered the idea to constructive reality. Wilmotte has earned international fame as the designer of “urban interior architecture,” a voguish name for the construction of public buildings that appeal to the same respect and reverence as your own home. Even before joining with Wilmotte, Halter had been very active in the propagation of peace through her efforts with Eléments, a European publication promoting and tracking the progress of peace in the Middle East. Given this experience in her life, it was quite natural that she would draw upon the symbols of Mid-Eastern culture in her conceptualization of the Wall for Peace. In particular, she reached into the religion of Judaism and the traditions surrounding the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem.

Paper Messages or Prayers Are Placed in the Crevices of the Wailing Wall
(Click for Larger Photo)

The Wailing Wall carries strong meaning to those of the Jewish religion, serving as a monument to their faith, a place of prayer, and symbol of Judaism’s tenacity in the face of persecution. According to tradition, the Wailing Wall at one time served as the western wall of the courtyard that enclosed the Jewish Temple Mount – upon which rested the actual temple initiated by Herod the Great in the year 19 BC. For this reason it is often referred to as the Western Wall, but it is also denoted as “Kotel” in Hebrew. With the exception of the temple mount itself, the Wailing Wall is held as the most revered site in Judaism and has been frequently photographed – making it a familiar landmark to people around the world. Many historians believe that the custom of praying before the wall gained popularity in the years following the Ottoman conquest of Jerusalem in 1517 – and it has been a point of friction between Judaism and Islam ever since. According to the long-held teachings of Judaism, the very gate of heaven is situated at the Wailing Wall and waiting to hear the prayers of those that approach.

You Can Email Your Messages to the Wailing Wall
(Click for Larger Photo)

Of particular significance to understanding the thinking behind the Peace Wall of Paris is the Jewish custom of placing slips of paper in the crevices of the Wailing Wall, containing wishes and hopes for the future. Ever since the earliest description of this tradition in 1743, there has been a running debate on whether or not worshippers are allowed to place their finger in the crevices of the wall – since in the tradition of more orthodox teaching such an action would breach the very holiness of the temple that once stood on the mount. At one time, the ritual of approaching the wall included the need to remove one’s shoes, but this parameter of worship eventually gave way – while the stricture to cover the head has remained. Today more than a million slips of paper are placed in the wall each year, and there are actual online services available – similar to “Window on the Wall” – through which Jews can email their notes to Jerusalem at a time of great spiritual need. Some organizations, such as the Christian Broadcasting Network, even provide a way for people all over the world to tweet their prayers, and in such a manner have them printed and placed in the wall.

The Wall for Peace Consists Mainly of Glass
(Click for Larger Photo)

Through the combined talents of Halter and Wilmotte, the Wall for Peace is a masterful and respectful transference of the Wailing Wall to Parisian society – and it has gained unexpected international fame and survived long past its intended staying time. Originally designed and intended to mark the millennium for the City of Paris, the President of the French Republic inaugurated its presence on the Champs de Mars on March 30, 2000. Sitting in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, the Wall for Peace consists of a metal structure that is covered with glass, stainless steel and wood of exotic origins. In the true spirit of the Wailing Wall, mailboxes are included as “chinks” in the design, intended for handwritten messages – thereby liberally borrowing from Judaic tradition. Inscribed on the monument is the word “peace,” written in 32 different languages. In another obvious replication of Jewish tradition, onsite computer hookups allow anyone in the world to send an email message to the monument – which is accordingly displayed on monitors at the actual site. You can send you own message this very minute by visiting the link at the website. Designed to include a scenic walkway, the location is now a gathering spot for progressive thinkers that mill about discussing and debating world issues. Tremendously popular, the Parisian Wailing Wall was originally intended to stand for a short period of time, and it has survived threats for its removal.

An obvious question in reference to this website is whether or not the concepts surrounding the Paris Wall for Peace could be adapted to the design of a national monument dedicated to the victims of terrorism. We think in the affirmative, especially in respect to the topic of world peace. However, you have your own opinion and you can express it with the survey 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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