Peace Bridge pieces come together

The first segments of a controversial pedestrian bridge are being welded together over the Bow River.
Photographer Peter Errmann is a fan of the under-construction Peace Bridge, and believes its modern design can complement Calgary's cowboy image. ((CBC))

The first segments of a controversial pedestrian bridge are being welded together over the Bow River in Calgary.

The Peace Bridge, a tubular structure that will connect Eau Claire to Sunnyside, has been criticized both within city council chambers and by the public for its $22-million price tag.

The project was designed by award-winning Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

Calgary Professional Arts Alliance chairman DJ Kelly said that while the arts community would have preferred it had the bridge not been a sole-sourced project, there's still a feeling of excitement over Calgary having a Calatrava piece.

"Certainly not every city in the world does," said Kelly.

"It's really starting to put Calgary on the map in terms of a place where some of these upper echelons of artists want to come and work and … build some really cool, amazing things."

Bridge opinions divided

Kelly said that it's impossible to know what kind of hold a piece of art like this one will have over people until it's in place.

But he suggested that the unusual design and bold red of the bridge would stand out on the blue of the river and the green of the riverbanks — "it's going to be eye-catching," Kelly said.

"Certainly the hope is that it will become a tourist destination, it'll become a place [that] Calgarians are proud of, it'll become a place that people use on a regular basis," he said. "And then it becomes a landmark in Calgary."

Photographer Peter Errmann, taking snaps of the construction work, said that just because Calgary is holding on to its cowboy image doesn't mean it can't build modern-looking bridges like Calatrava's.

Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava's unusual bridge design and the cost of the project have polarized Calgarians. ((Santiago Calatrava))

Not everyone feels that way.

Michelle Hegge, who lives in Sunnyside and works in Eau Claire, said she doesn't think there's a need for it.

"I don't think I'll benefit from it because I have a couple of other bridges that I can use," said Hegge.

"I thought it was a little silly that we're putting in another bridge in between two bridges that are already less than a kilometre apart."

She added, however, that her opinion might change once the ribbon is cut.

Alderman and mayoral candidate Joe Connelly stopped by to check out construction on Wednesday.

He said he still opposes the project and that he thinks it's not a good-looking piece of art.

Connelly said he hopes Calgarians forgive council's decision to build it.