The art and soul of building bridges

The City of Edmonton’s Integrated Infrastructure Department builds bridges of many kinds—some of steel, others of heart.

Our city is connected by bridges of all ages and styles, marking the work of City engineers over decades. All of them were built to help people get where they need to go and carry on with their day-to-day lives. They connect us to other parts of our city, and to each other.

The new Walterdale Bridge spans the North Saskatchewan River, connecting the intersection of Queen Elizabeth Park Road and Walterdale Hill on the south side with 105 Street to the north.

The Groat Road Bridge, undergoing renewal, connects the University of Alberta and parks areas to Westmount and surrounding neighbourhoods.

“Bridges are the monuments of our time–they have to be strong and functional, but they can be diverse in their design,” said Anjum Mullick, Director of Engineering Services and the co-chair of the department’s diversity and inclusion committee.

So, it was natural last month for Integrated Infrastructure staff IIS staff to come together to show their support for Pride Month, equal rights and LGBTQ2+ colleagues with a model bridge building competition.

“This competition was a hands-on interpretation of the 2019 Pride Month Theme of Building Bridges from Stonewall,” said Mullick. (The Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village neighbourhood was the site of a number of demonstrations by members of the gay community to protest a police raid that began on June 28, 1969.)

“It was a creative way to come together as a team to learn from each other and solve problems, while learning about the LGBTQ2+ community. When we talk together and listen to each other, we build a safe, respectful workplace, and design and build amazing things at the same time.”

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Teams collected points for integrating team members from different work areas, design elements, and environmentally friendly materials. Basic materials were provided, and each team could add to them and had to create something relevant to the theme. The finished bridges had to be a maximum length of 600 mm and maximum width of 200 mm. Load-bearing ability was not one of the judging criteria.

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Two competition events were held, one at the World Trade Centre on June 26 and one at the Engineering Services Building on June 27.

Each event was opened by Gabriel Castilloux Calderon, a guest speaker from the Edmonton Pride Centre who identifies as two-spirit. Castilloux Calderon delivered an informative and engaging workshop about gender identity and sexual orientation. Teams then made final design tweaks before digging into rainbow-decorated refreshments.

In all, 11 teams participated. Both events succeeded in bringing close to 100 City of Edmonton staff together to build bridges with hearts, minds and hands—and popsicle sticks.

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