Bridging the gap in pedestrian transit - Metro US

Bridging the gap in pedestrian transit

If high-end design can uplift Calgary’s spectre of architecture, and include measures of transit infrastructure, I am all for it, especially the Santiago Calatarva-commissioned foot bridges to gap the Bow.

You’ve got to love Coun. Druh Farell, stout and pushing the perceptibly gaudy investment of $25 million to bring these bridges to fruition, even in the midst of a global recession.

But architects agree that thoughtful urban design can improve quality of life, a sure investment with greater returns than the most-obvious functions of design.

It’s about the poetics of space, or in this case, the meaning and effects of what a pedestrian bridge represents.

“The bridge is one of the most potent structures man creates,” said David Fortin, a local architect now teaching architectural design and history at Montana State University.

“The connection between two things has not just structural implications, but philosophical and poetic ones as well.”

Fortin explained pedestrian bridges “stitch the fragments of our cities together in a unique way, by heightening our experience of what it means to ‘connect.’”

And while less visionary citizens and leaders will forever be linked more to their bottom lines, philosophies of cost reduction and a focus on simple function, I suspect it’s just as important to recognize wealth in daily relationships with our community, including structures.

Bringing in a globally renowned architect like Calatrava to design the bridges also sends the right message to the greater Calgary public.

With this investment, council is saying, “we care about Calgary’s image as a major international city, and we are ready to move away from the primarily banal personality lingering amidst the urban landscape.”

“A couple of fresh and visually compelling additions along the Bow do make sense for the city by contributing to its evolving global identity,” said Fortin.

When you think of the greatest cities in the world it is no accident that some are identified by their bridges, but Calgary’s proposed pedestrian bridges signify an “urban maturity” and desire to exist in a well-designed city.

A sign perhaps that people like it here and, despite the get-rich-quick, get-out-of-town attitude prevalent in our city, people want to stay.

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