September 17, 2008

Passerelles in Calgary

No shortage of irony here: just as “Get Moving B.C.” is comparing us to Calgary to justify more bridges for cars, Calgary is debating the need to build more pedestrian bridges (or passerelles):

City council recently approved $25 million to design and build one pedestrian bridge and design another….  The total cost of the two bridges will be close to $40 million, perhaps $50 million, with the balance coming from sales of city-owned land in the East Village.  Santiago Calatrava, a Spaniard who is the Michelangelo of pedestrian bridge construction, is being touted as a possible architect for at least one of the bridges.

More here.

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Keep ’em coming, folks.  Here’s a favoured passerelle from PT reader Chris:

The Esplanade Riel was built in Winnipeg a few years ago. It was highly contentious because of the cost of running plumbing for a restaurant in the middle, but it is one of the most photographed locations in the city now.

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More bridges, (passerelle division).

Stephen Bayley of The Observer writes here about the love affair architects have with pedestrian bridges:

Nicely combining art and engineering, bridge design belongs to both architecture and engineering (although at the Millennium Bridge the sculptor Anthony Caro got a credit too). But in recent years, architects have become ever more interested in them, even usurping the engineers with the bylines. There was a time when every architect wanted to design a chair (whose structural duties make them similar to bridges). But now, evidence of the organically enlarging egos of topline architects, only a bridge will do.

And he gives some examples from around the British Isles, like the new Temple Quay bridge in Bristol, just being finished:

 The “Living Bridge” at the University of Limerick:

And a bridge in Castleford in West Yorkshire – the starting point for an urban regeneration program:

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This time it’s Singapore that’s building a low-level pedestrian bridge at Marina Bay:

The design is by the Cox Group and Arup. 

I’ve been arguing here and here that Vancouver needs its own passerelle across False Creek (in addition to the small one at the Olympic Village).  Now that the City has indicated it will not fund a Burrard Bridge widening in the next capital plan, it’s time to seriously look at alternatives.  Surely we can find a way to both accommodate vessels in False Creek and proceed with the most important sustainable transportation project on the agenda. 

In fact, the election should not pass without a commitment from the candidates.

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Yet another starchiect – Zaha Hadid – doing yet another pedestrian bridge (or passerelle, as the French call them), this one across the Ebro River in Zaragoza, Spain.

More here in the Independent on the 270-metre bridge which also houses a pavillion for the 2008 Expo being held there.

More than ever, it’s apparent to me that we have to seriously examine the possibility for a ped-bike bridge across False Creek, rather than a widening of the Burrard Bridge.  The obvious location is under the bridge itself, using the cuts that were made through the columns to accommodate an anticipated streetcar line extension.

Yes, there’s a problem accommodating high-masted boats at high tide.  But this should be considered an oppportunity for innovation rather than an intractable problem.  Perhaps a separate structure should be considered – a commission to the world’s best architects and engineers – so that Vancouver gets something practical, beautiful and iconic: a statement that, really, honestly, we do take sustainable transportation seriously.

There are some fascinating politics involved with the bridge widening: Ladner cannot support the use of existing lanes for bike routes, while Robertson must.  Ladner will be able to use the threat of congestion to solidify his west-side base, while Robertson will use Ladner’s position to peel off support from the cycling and heritage communities.

Maybe a serious examination of a separate low-level structure would be something they could both support.

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Bravo to The Sun for stoking a discussion on the future of Burrard Bridge – Bridging the Repair Bill Gap.  Journalist Catherine Rolfsen found a range of opinon, from going ahead with the widening but trying to do it cheaper, to building a separate low-level bridge. 

I like that idea.  Build a passerelle, as the French call them, and as so many cities are doing

My current favourite: the Simone de Beauvoir Passerelle across the Seine:

Cost in 2006: 21 million Euros.  But there are so many bridges varying in size and cost, so many being done by great architects with cities vying to outdo each other that I’ll feature some in upcoming posts.   (Send in your nominations!) 

Some are icons for their city, like the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam.

According to the Wayfaring Travel Guide:

The 808 metre long bridge has a 139 metre-high asymmetrical pylon, earning the bridge its nickname of “The Swan” by locals because of its graceful posture over the water. The southern span of the bridge has a 89 metre long bascule bridge for ships that cannot pass under the bridge. The bascule bridge is the largest and heaviest in West Europe and has the largest panel of its type in the world. The bridge was officially opened by Queen Beatrix on 6.09. 1996, having cost about 75 million Euros to construct.

It’s time to put together a task force to really explore the options and not lose a chance to build something truly great – and affordable.


UPDATE: Councillor Chow calls for False Creek pedestrian bridge. 

Derek Moscato’s column in The Province: It feels like we’re being taken for a ride ….

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