Thursday, May 23, 2024

“Bridge to nowhere”: about Calgary’s Peace Bridge

The Peace Bridge is a pedestrian and bicycle bridge over the Bow River. It was opened in March 2012. Since then, the bridge has become a real magnet for tourists, a popular location for wedding photos, a gathering place for protesters and even a stage for musicians, writes calgary-future.

Construction history

In 2007, there was a need for an additional crossing over the Bow River for the convenience of residents and to overcome congestion. The problem with its construction was city restrictions that only allowed the bridge to be a maximum of 23 feet high, as helicopters fly over the area frequently. In addition, in order to avoid environmental problems, construction was allowed only without support in water.

On September 8, 2008, Calgary City Council allocated $25 million for the bridge project. The council ordered the city administration to design and build an elegant red and white bridge. Former alderman Ric McIver vocally opposed him and ran for mayor in 2010, but lost to Naheed Nenshi. However, Nenshi also questioned its necessity, because there were other bridges nearby.

Nevertheless, they decided to build. The temporary structure, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and manufactured in Spain, was brought to Calgary in March 2010. Then it was folded here and moved to its final location in November 2011. During the work inspection, it was found that some welded joints did not meet the quality standards. The city then hired an independent inspection company to double-check everything. Some welded joints and damaged concrete slabs had to be repaired. The official opening took place on March 24, 2012.

The bridge connected Sunnyside with Chinatown and the East Village. It also provided a safe crossing for pedestrians and cyclists who previously had a problem getting to work in another part of the city. Although he made life easier for Calgarians, most of them were still unhappy that they spent as much as 25 million dollars on the bridge.

By the way, when the decision was made about the Peace Bridge, the construction of a bridge on St. Patrick’s Island was also approved, also at a cost of 25 million dollars, but it did not cause such a stir.

Unique design

The bridge was made in an unusual shape and color for Calgary. Most of the bridges at that time were white and quite high. The colors chosen for the Peace Bridge are the same as those on the flag of Canada and the flag of Calgary – red and white.

When designing the bridge, Santiago Calatrava took care of people who suffer from claustrophobia (fear of closed spaces): curved structural glass between curved steel frames forms a roof visor under the open sky. The structure of asymmetrical shapes is made of steel with plexiglass roof panels that protect pedestrians from weather conditions and at the same time let in natural light during the day. The paths inside the bridge were illuminated with fluorescent lamps, which were installed in the pipes. This made it possible to illuminate the bridge at any time of the day.

Due to its interesting construction, it is often called the “bridge to nowhere”. Tourism Calgary has repeatedly used the Peace Bridge in their promotional materials, as it has become Calgary’s trademark. During Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations in 2017, a giant red ball was placed on the bridge.


In the summer of 2020, the Peace Bridge was closed for 4 days to replace expansion joints. It cost $80,000.

The bridge was repeatedly vandalized. For example, in 2022, 80% of the glass panels, namely 72, were broken by a vandal with a hammer and brick, causing almost $1 million in damage. At the time, the city council said that approximately 6 panels break each year, and their replacement costs approximately $80,000.

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