Water under the Peace Bridge in Calgary

Everything from its cost to its red-steel helix look has been mercilessly attacked

Few issues excite Calgarians like government spending. So when the city decided to spend millions on a pedestrian bridge, it was no surprise many of them grew incensed. The Peace Bridge, which spans the Bow River, has been much delayed and oft maligned. The controversial bridge is finally scheduled to open next month. Everything from its cost—at least $24.5 million—to its red-steel helix look has been attacked without mercy.

Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava was hired to design the bridge in 2008, in a process that drew heavy fire: there was no design competition and no tender. He was the only candidate. One local writer called the process a “backdoor deal,” a “ bad joke,” and “an ego project”—all in one column. Other wags, meanwhile, have attacked it as a product of shady dealings in former mayor Dave Bronconnier’s City Hall.

Flaws in the welded steel produced in Spain, among other delays, kept pushing the end date back. The final product looks like little else in Calgary, a city not known for arresting architecture. The covered dome snakes over the river without supports. Its bright red hues stand out against the muted, Prairie landscape.

The city is planning an opening celebration. But the mayor, for one, doesn’t seem entirely anxious to be there. “If he’s available,” Naheed Nenshi will attend, said a spokesperson.

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