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ST o r y BY E R i c S t r a i N PHOTO BY C H R I S T O P H E R S M IT H continued from page 9 is the lowest compared with other minorities,” says Kyle Ethelbah, adult educational services director with UNLV’s Center for Academic Enrichment and Outreach. “We need to focus on higher education enrollment, graduation and retention. Once students get here, they need to stay.” Ethelbah should know. He’s a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, as well as a product of the TRIO program, which helps firstgeneration students, adults and minorities apply for college. “Without TRIO, I would not have had the skills to apply for financial aid,” he says. Last year, TRIO joined with another federally funded program to help more than 24,000 underprivileged Clark County high school students graduate and apply to college. And college is about more than just landing a good job. For Native Americans, success also means higher visibility and a way of promoting and preserving their unique culture. “In K-12, many cultures are reduced to one paragraph in history class,” says Christopher Kypuros, faculty advisor to UNLV’s Native American Student Association. “Higher education provides a new universe for students seeking to preserve their culture. … Native students are serious about their education. The majority are educated and proud of their heritage. Native people are still here and are moving forward.” — Maureen Gregory 10 Desert Companion The Colorado River Bridge relies on its slender form to make a statement. Grace under pressure The new Colorado River Bridge balances power with poise Few structures still stand tall in Southern Nevada after 75 years — and fewer that do still leave you in awe. But standing on the Hoover Dam, it’s still inspiring to peer over the edge into the river far below your feet. (Even more impressive is the fact this structure was conceived in four years with a total of 76 drawings — and without computers.) Now the newly opened Colorado River Bridge complements the dam’s sense of power with a touch of grace. That’s complement, not compete. It’s hard for anything to compete with the enormity of the dam — besides the sheer canyon walls it spans. But where Hoover Dam relies on force of mass to inspire, the new Colorado River Bridge spans the canyon walls with a slenderness of form. Its arch frames the distant mountains while also recalling the dam’s massive concrete backside. The bridge stands in sharp contrast to the bulk of the dam, enabling a dialogue between them. However, outside that dialogue, the Colorado River Bridge (also called the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge) is also a feat in itself. Slender upright columns supported by a graceful arch appear to suspend the bridge in air. The form should not just be seen as a means to speed travel to Arizona, but seen from the dam as you envision humanity’s pure desire to overcome obstacles and dream. But with the concrete structure’s simplicity of form, have we lost the intricate detailing of a steel bridge, with girders and beams that would have added both delicacy and drama? If it had been a cable suspension bridge, would its form be overshadowed by the dam’s weight? These questions aren’t intended to detract from this engineering marvel, but rather to raise the question of the impact design has on our everyday lives. From objects we take for granted to our city roads, have we accepted just getting things done over potential aesthetic delight and function? For instance, what if the bridge had included a pedestrian bypass to a visitor’s center or a restaurant hung from the apex of the arch? Can you imagine your astonishment overlooking the gorge or looking back onto the dam at night, lit in all its beauty? No more would we just have pictures of the dam taken from helicopters, but we ourselves could stand witness to its power and beauty. In solving everyday transportation issues, we cannot continue to ignore their inherent ability to inspire and celebrate life and travel.  On my recent trip to view the bridge, there was another admirer there who joked about the frightening prospect of bungee jumping off it. I much prefer my feet on the stability of the dam to appreciate this new engineering marvel — one that is mere feet from another Southern Nevada original we’ve called our own for 75 years. Architect Eric Strain is principal of Assemblage Studio. Among his current projects is College Villas, a community-focused senior housing project in Henderson. N o v e m b e r / / D e c e m b ER 2 0 1 0

Desert Companion - November/December 2010

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