One million dollars in damage. With over 80 percent of the glass windows of Calgary Peace Bridge shattered, residents and visitors are left to wonder. Why would the individual, now arrested, use bricks and tools to cause such destruction to an iconic city structure?

Shattered glass panels bridge vandalism

Shattered glass panels from bridge vandalism

What is the Calgary Peace Bridge?

Built to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists, the helical or screw-like steel structure crosses the Bow River. Connecting  pathways on opposite sides of the waterway, the bridge promotes access to downtown Calgary.

At 6.3 metres (20 feet) in width, the bridge allows for separate pedestrian and cycling corridors. Opened in 2012 to withstand Calgary’s one in a hundred year flood, (which was tested one year after opening), the bridge has a minimum 75 year life span.

Cyclist prior to vandalism

A lone cyclist on the Peace Bridge in Calgary prior to vandalism

The bridge is barrier free, providing access for all. Glass panels line each side of the bridge. The design allows those crossing to have unobstructed views the river and the downtown skyline.

Due to the environmental sensitivity of the Bow River, no piers or supports touch the water. This gives the Peace Bridge an illusion of floating above the blue-green water below.

Calgary peace bridge

Calgary Peace Bridge

What does the name Peace Bridge mean?

At the north side of the bridge is Calgary’s Memorial Drive. The roadway is a tribute to Canadian soldiers, in peacekeeping and war time over the past century.

Each November, near the Calgary Peace Bridge, the Field of Crosses, with over 3500 white markers, memorialize the service of Alberta soldiers.

Field of Crosses Calgary

Field of Crosses Calgary

Further west on Memorial Drive is Poppy Plaza. The 86,100 square foot war memorial uses lighting and quotes engraved in steel, to honour the sacrifices of war time.

The red colour of the skeleton like design is a nod to the red of the Canadian and Calgary flags.

A less than peaceful beginning 

When Calgary city council approved the construction of the Peace Bridge in 2008, many residents wondered at the need for another pedestrian crossing of the Bow River.

The choice of architect Santiago Calatrava of Spain left many Calgarians in outrage.  Overlooking Canadian architects for the project an irritation for many.

The tubular bridge construction in Spain, not only meant less jobs at home but also increased shipping costs.

Peace Bridge Calgary Canada

Peace Bridge Calgary Canada

When independent inspection revealed that some welding did not meet quality standards, repairs of the bridge meant significant delays. For months the bridge lay under orange tarps while Calgarians shook their heads at the increasing price tag.

Finally, on March 24, 2012 the city of Calgary Peace Bridge opened to the public, approximately 18 months late, with a price tag of $24.5 million.

What’s with all the vandalism?

On average, six glass panels on Calgary’s Peace Bridge shatter at the hands of vandals each year. According to Calgary city officials the yearly cost is approximately $80,000 to remove and replace the broken glass.

At the time of construction, a set of replacement panels were provided. Perhaps sadly, forward thinking that some degree of vandalism would be inevitable.

Broken glass Peace Bridge

Eighty percent of the glass panels shattered on the Peace Bridge

Ironically, at the time of this extensive destruction, a city campaign was underway to reduce the damage done to the Calgary Peace Bridge.

‘Vandalism Gallery’ includes displays of works of arts that have been damaged. messages on the bridge floor read, ” You are standing on a work of art.”

Vandalism Gallery

Vandalism Gallery display City of Calgary Peace Bridge

According to Charmaine Buhler, bridge maintenance manager, “We have seen an increase in vandalism to the Peace Bridge’s glass panels, mainly from people throwing rocks at the bridge from the east riverbed.”

The message of the initiative apparently lost on the vandal, with hammer and brick in hand. 

What is the solution to the Calgary Peace Bridge vandalism?

Although Calgarians were slow to embrace the construction of the Peace Bridge, the beauty of the red spiral linking the north and south sides of the river has proven irresistible.

Thousands of pedestrians and cyclists access the spiral structure daily. A common backdrop for wedding photographers, the red helix is now synonymous with Calgary.

Bride on Calgary Peace Bridge

Our daughter on her wedding day- Photo credit Bretton Grassie Photography

Mayor Jyoti Gondek advises the city is looking into what happened and what happens next. 

“It’s an expensive fix. And I’m not sure what the situation is with the person who did the damage. Obviously, we try to be compassionate in situations like this. But we’ve also got to figure out what exactly led to this. It’s a travesty,” said Gondek.

“At one point, we did have an understanding that it may be more costly to replace the panels with different materials, but that one-time cost may be a better investment,” the mayor said.

With lights and security cameras already installed on the bridge are security personnel the next step? How can a city protect such a massive piece of public art from harm?

Calgary Bridge vandalism repair

Peace Bridge in Calgary under repair

 

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