Strange question? After all, Redding is surrounded by natural beauty; why wouldn’t this community demand as much from the design of its buildings? And yet, more than a few years ago, I remember a spirited discussion with a friend – a local architect, no less – about the not-yet-built Sundial Bridge. He was arguing that Redding should think more modestly with this design, while I argued for a bold statement. My thinking – certainly in the minority at that time – was that Redding’s image in it’s own mind still harkened back to the term “Poverty Flats”, and that a makeover was long overdue, one that could get a major kick-start with this bridge.

I would suggest that the number of people who get off I-5 just to walk across this bridge does not matter as much as how good we feel when we walk across that bridge, about ourselves and our community. Can architecture lift our spirits? Absolutely, and in these trying economic times, maybe there’s a value to feeling good that’s beyond measure. And if you’re thinking that feeling good starts with being able to pay your bills, I wholeheartedly agree.

So, what if just a little of that “good feeling” becomes the difference for a company executive thinking of relocating a new business to our community. Having cheap land for development may not be any stronger a selling tool than a few examples of wildly creative design. Certainly as an architect I am biased, but I believe that the beauty of our community is not only something that makes us attractive to investment (and more jobs) but also something we deserve.

And any discussion of current – or future – design in our community should rightfully start with this bridge.

Written by James Theimer for The Record Searchlight’s Redding Sketchbook blog at redding.com