The main entrance to the University of Calgary was transformed into a gateway in 1986 when an archway which spanned University Drive was installed. Designed by Civil Engineering students Brian Hope and Bob Loov in 1966, the arch originally formed part of a pedestrian bridge over Crowchild Trail, linking the campus to the Capital Hill neighbourhood. The students – who later became faculty members -- had deemed a bridge design which had been commissioned by the Board of Governors to be ugly, and offered theirs as a more aesthetically pleasing alternative. While intended to represent a Chinook arch cloud pattern, the structure became known as the ‘Rainbow Bridge’.
Fast forward twenty years and construction of the Light Rail Transit in 1986 necessitated the widening of Crowchild Trail and the removal of the bridge. A land swap with the city to provide the right-of-way for the LRT resulted in the bridge coming into the possession of the University. The entrance archway was created by removing the walkway portion of the bridge and welding the two spans into one structure. “We’ve transformed a utilitarian bridge into a piece of art”, University spokesman Helen Rojek declared. However, the student newspaper, The Gauntlet, declared the archways to be reminiscent of McDonald’s golden arches and reported that “University students have noticed the resemblance, posting a sign on the structure boasting ’17,000 served daily’, a reference to the number of students on campus and the number of burgers McDonald’s has dispensed over the years.”
Renewal of the archway was undertaken in 2012, funded by the Students’ Union quality money program. The renewal involved cleaning and painting the arches in the official red colour of the University. A new gateway sign on the east side of the entrance was also installed and a reopening ceremony held when the project was completed. Student Dominik Rozwadowski was credited with the idea to revitalize the University’s entrance after walking under the arch and past the old sign for five years and finding it “old, depressing and uninspiring. He felt they needed rejuvenation to stimulate inspiration for current and future students”, said Students’ Union President Hardave Birk. At the reopening ceremony President Elizabeth Cannon declared, “When Brian and Bob saw the plans for a more conventional bridge, they knew they could do better – and they did. It was audacious for [them] to design a bridge in 1966, and it was just as bold to create a new university in this young city in that same year. The arch represents our past, and also the pride that we have in our many accomplishments and success today.”