For decades, it stood tall as an iconic symbol of peace at the Canada-United States border.
But now, the 120-foot Peace Tower at the International Peace Garden is coming down.
"Originally there was some thought of just repairing and reconstructing, but once we did the testing it became clear that the entire structure, from the base all the way to the top, was beginning to crumble," said Peace Garden CEO Garry Enns. "It wasn’t just a few external spots that we had originally identified."
Demolition began Wednesday and is expected to take one to two weeks, depending on the weather.
Built in 1982 to commemorate the garden’s 50th anniversary, the tower’s four concrete columns straddle the Canada-U.S. border. It started falling apart in 2011 and became a safety concern. A security fence was installed around the perimeter of the tower to protect visitors.
Enns has been at the helm of the Peace Garden for two years. He is also an alumnus of the International Music Camp, and remembers the site before the tower was built.
"There are people in the area and in the community who are fairly emotional about it all," he said.
Last year, IPG launched an ideas competition, which brought in six submissions. GPP Architecture’s entry, entitled "Interwoven," was chosen as the winning design.
Guy Préfontaine, principal architect with the Winnipeg-based firm, described their tower design as natural and amorphic.
"It speaks to the softness of the human spirit, the rising of the emotions," he said last August. "It has two large panels which are the only opaque ones, which actually symbolize each of the countries. They start from each of the nations and they twist together."
They hit a finite point at the top, which is "the height of human aspiration."
Enns said the IPG board is meeting this weekend to come up with a strategy for how to move forward on the tower’s replacement.
"While the ideas competition generated some fairly unique and interesting ideas, I suspect that the final plan … may be quite different from the one that was chosen as the winner of the competition," he said. "It was an ideas competition, it wasn’t a tendering for a project."
The creators of the top three designs met with the IPG board in December and each of them provided a cost estimate. Enns said it ranged from $1 million to $15 million.
"The first thing of course is to find the money," Enns said.
The government of North Dakota has dedicated $1.5 million to the project, but it is contingent on matching funds from another source.
Cliff Cullen, Manitoba’s minister of Growth, Enterprise and Trade, stated via email that sites like IPG are an important part of the province’s tourism industry.
"The International Peace Garden is a site recognized under the province’s Star Attractions," Cullen stated, adding these sites are eligible to apply for project grant funding through the Star Attraction Enhancement Program.
"At this time, the Manitoba government has not been approached for funding of the Peace Tower project through this program."
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