Calgary Peace Bridge architect fined $115K for Venice bridge that cracks under tourists' luggage

One of the world's most prominent architects, who designed Calgary's Peace Bridge, has been fined for negligence in designing an Italian bridge that also has issues with its glass panels.

Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava has been ordered to pay €78,000 ($115,000 Cdn) by an Italian court for a series of issues that bumped up the cost of Venice's Constitution Bridge from €7 million to €11.6 million ($10.3 million to $17.1 million Cdn)

The ruling, issued Aug. 6, states glass panels were being damaged at a much higher rate than Calatrava had intended — panels that were supposed to last 20 years lasted only four.

Panels were unable to stand up to tourists pulling wheeled luggage over the bridge — perhaps a bit of an oversight in a city known for its fight against overtourism — and were also being damaged by people slipping and falling on the slick glass surface, costing the city tens of thousands to replace.

The court accused Calatrava of failing to "understand what everyone understands."

Helen Pike/CBC

Spanish newspaper El País reports that supporters of the architect say he's famous for erecting monuments over functional buildings, and it's not a big deal.

Calgary might be able to empathize with Venice's bridge plight.

The city has spent nearly $300,000 replacing glass panels (broken by vandals and thermal expansion) on the $24.5-million Peace Bridge since it was built in 2012, and even had to commission a specialized piece of equipment to slide new glass panels into the bridge — due to its unique shape.

And, in an ironic situation that Venetians might appreciate, in 2016 the Calgary Herald reported the city spent $700,000 to replace 300 light fixtures on the bridge that couldn't hold up to Calgary's cold weather.