This story originally appeared as my WalkSpace column at Spacing Ottawa: http://spacingottawa.ca/2011/03/28/walkspace-we-can-do-better-than-a-self-effacing-bridge/
The City is conducting studies for the placement of a ped-cyclist bridge over the Rideau River connecting Somerset E to Donald Street. I think this will be a very useful link. I am also delighted that we are constructing a link based on its own merits and appeal to cyclists and peds and not just as an appendage catering to motorist origin-destination desires.
From the newsletter of the study team, I espy the following comment, which is pretty typical for Ottawa: “the design should look to enhance the natural environment and reduce visual obstructions of the river vista”.
Hmm. Am I over-reacting when I read this as a wish for a bland, innocuous bridge that is self-effacing and minimizing? And probably cheap, too?
And not, in contrast, something that is dramatic and artistic in its own merit? Consider this ped-cyclist bridge proposed for Calgary, conveniently already in Ottawa colours:
That bridge is the opposite of minimal visual impact, it treats the bridge as a sculpture. Ottawans, of course, prefer something with wooden planks and rusted steel girder sides, as constructed on so many NCC paths or along the Ottawa River below the McD-Cartier bridge. And then, ta da! we will take 1% of the budget and install an “artwork” to beautify it or something. (Actually, we spend 1% but at least 20% of that 1% is consumed with “overhead” expenses to run a competition and pay the bureaucrats administering the project).
The above design is by Santiago Calatrava, here is a view from the ped or cyclist point of view, no 1% artwork budget required:
The undulating bridge is white on top, with red reflective panels on the bottom. There, another design in Ottawa colours. And not just a bridge, it creates its own space, an attraction, a huge functional expansion of the adjacent park space, a place to interact with and enjoy the river.
From Calgary to Slovenia cities are considering pedestrian and cyclist bridges that are sculptural and beautiful as well as functional. Any chance we could ever even consider such a design?
Here’s two more illustrations of how the Maribar bridge would work. Be sure to read the little dialogue balloons in the bottom pic: