In the course of our daily reporting, we often uncover unusual projects, places, or connections that don't make the final cut. Instead of keeping it to ourselves, we're pleased to share our weekly Architrivia.
Over the summer, one of Calgary's most iconic historic landmarks celebrated its centennial. The Centre Street Bridge was built in 1916 by the City of Calgary for a then-monumental fee of $375,000 CAD, and its beautiful arched spans that are guarded by a pride of four concrete lions have been an integral part of the local skyline for a century.
Designed by local Scottish-born sculptor James L. Thompson, the famous 12,600-kilogram lions were modelled after those found at the base of Nelson's Column in London's Trafalgar Square. Seated at rest on its own concrete pedestal, each of the identical lions faces stoically outwards and serves as a silent sentinels at the boundary of downtown Calgary.
Complete with twin car decks, the Centre Street Bridge was originally designed to accommodate streetcar travel on the top deck, though the city abandoned its fleet in 1950, leaving more room for the passage of automobiles in either direction.
Over the years, even as the Centre Street Bridge continues to be increasingly dwarfed by its impressive urban backdrop, its modest beauty and timeless quality have continued to rank the landmark as one of the most photographed sites downtown, its location a prime spot for capturing Calgary's ever-growing skyline.
Designated as a protected heritage structure back in 1992, the bridge received extensive renovations in 2000, requiring the permanent removal of the original lions in 1999, which were placed in safe storage for future restoration purposes. In 2003, after careful restoration, the least dilapidated lion statue was used for a mould from which four identical replicas were created, to be placed once more atop their perches after bridge restoration work was complete.
While the first of the restored original lions has since been placed at the entrance of Calgary Municipal Building where it has sat since 2003, the remaining lions have yet to find a permanent home. Earlier this year, however, in anticipation of the centennial, the City announced that another of the pride will be restored and placed somewhere within Rotary Park in 2017.
100 years on, the Centre Street Bridge continues to inspire, its iconic profile and distinct statuary offering no end of beautiful shots of the city, its legacy to live on as its concrete pride continue to migrate to distant corners of the city, a marker of permanence within an urban context that has changed dramatically over the intervening century.
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