RED: Calgary's Urban Playground

Richard White, July 3, 2014 (An edited version of this blog appeared in the Calgary Herald's Neighbour). 

How can Calgary’s 17th Ave BRZ (Business Revitalization Zone) be the newest and oldest at the same time?  It is the newest in that it was rebranded in March 2013 as RED (Retail and Entertainment District), and the oldest as it was the first BRZ formed in 1984 when it was known as Uptown 17th.

Today, the 12 blocks of 17th Avenue between 2nd Street SW and 14th St SW is one of Canada’s best retail/restaurant streets.  It offers a healthy diversity of flaneuring fun with about 70 restaurants and bars (including some great patios), 70 fashion and gift shops as well as 17 salons and spas. 

17th Avenue became internationally famous in 2004 when it was dubbed “The Red Mile” during the Calgary Flames’ run at the Stanley Cup.  After every playoff game win or lose, 50,000 fans in their red Flames jerseys would gathered along 17th Avenue, creating an impromptu street party with a Mardi Gras-like atmosphere.

The RED mile during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Urban Playground

RED is the urban playground of the young and restless GABEsters (geologists, accountants, bankers, brokers and engineers) of the Beltline and the rich and famous of Mount Royal and Scarboro. It is also home to one of Calgary’s newest trendy coffee shops (Analog Coffee) and one of its oldest (Café Beano).

This area is also popular with Calgary’s foodies who love to shop at Janice Beaton’s funky back alley cheese shop or meet up for a meal at her restaurant FARM. Brava Bistro is regularly on the top 10 restaurants in Calgary list. For those looking for something more informal, there is Tubby Dog.  Other foodie hot spots include Market, Cibo, Una, Ox & Angela, 80th & Ivy, Borgo and Menchies. And don’t forget Model Milk, was #2 on enRoute magazine’s list of the top 10 new restaurants in Canada, in 2012.

If you are looking for funky eyewear, Brass Monocle, Eye Candy, Eye on 17th and Sol Optix offer the latest international eyewear.  Other popular fashionista spots include Primitive Culture, Gravity Pope, Reid’s and Rubaiyat. 

The Ship & Anchor patio on 17th Avenue is animated even in the middle of March. 

Inside the Ship & Anchor is one of Calgary's most popular live music venues. 

RED’s Storied Past

Tomkins Park has an interesting history. Established in 1915 on land donated by Henry and Eleanor Tomkins on 17th Ave from 7th to 8th Street SW, it was originally approved as “Tomkins Square,” but eventually was developed as Tomkins Gardens and today is officially Tomkins Park.  Tomkins placed some interesting limitations on the park’s use, “for the discussion of political, religious, trade, or social questions, or lectures or addresses or any game or recreation of any kind whatsoever to be played by children or adults on any part of said lot.”

In 2008, 17th Avenue also gained some media attention as Tomkins Park became home to Calgary’s first automated public toilet – an Exeloo Galaxy.   Ranked #55 in Diana O’Meara’s book “Alberta Book of Musts: Places Every Albertan MUST See,” it is used about 40,000 times/year.

RED as a vibrant cafe scene. 

The sidewalk ballet on 17th Avenue SW.

Window licking fun is critical to being an urban playground.


One of Calgary’s architectural gems is the Devenish Apartments (908 – 17th Ave S.W.) built in 1911 designed by architect Alexander Pirie. To maximize the number of suites (57), the building originally had no bedrooms – a Murphy bed pulled down from the living room wall.  Amenities included the building’s sunrooms, steam laundry and odorless garbage incinerator.  In 1980, it was sold and renovated into the Devenish Design Centre.

RED’s other historical gem is the Anderson Apartments (804 - 18th Avenue S.W.), once home to Jann Arden and inspiration for her song “Living under June.” As well, her video “Insensitive” was filmed here. The Baroque, H-shaped building was designed by Roscoe B. Witten in 1913 to allow for the maximum number of windows for each of its luxury apartments.   The building boasted a marble rotunda, a grand stairway with 12-foot ceilings, as well as all-night elevator and telephone service.

Most of this information was sourced from Harry Sanders book “Historic Walks of Calgary.” This book is a great read and widely available in Calgary bookstores.

Devenish Design Centre

Calgary: New downtown office towers catalyst for inner-city densification.

By Richard White, June 28, 2014

(An edited version of this blog appeared in the Calgary Herald's New Condos section, June 28, 2014 titled; "Embrace downtown's explosive growth.")

I have received several comments from readers expressing concern that the term "downtown sprawl" is negative and inappropriate, especially as it relates to urban development and as the term urban sprawl.  One reader suggested the "downtown ripple effect."  In giving this blog further consideration I decided to retitle the blog "Calgary: New downtown office towers catalyst for inner-city densification," which I think better reflects my thesis. 

Calgary: Benefits of Downtown Sprawl? 

Calgary’s urban sprawl is unique in that it’s happening both at the edge of the city as well as all around its downtown.  While much attention is given to the ever- increasing number of new suburban communities by city politicians, planners and the media, the number of new master-planned urban villages close to downtown (under construction or in the design phase) is significant. Perhaps we can coin the phase “downtown sprawl.”

With over 7 million square feet of new downtown office space constructed over the past five years and another 5 million under construction or in the design phase, Calgary is a leader in downtown growth in North America. Twelve million square feet of office space will accommodate another 40,000 office workers, many of whom will undoubtedly want to live in or close to downtown.  

In May, Altus Group reported that there are an amazing 12,447 residential units proposed, pre-construction and construction stage in the Downtown and Beltline. (Note: this doesn’t include the condos proposed for communities north of the Bow River, east of the Elbow River or any of the new inner city urban villages along or near Crowchild Trail).

Brookfield Place 

Telus Sky Tower

Manulife office tower

Proposed Eau Claire Market site redevelopment with five new towers. 

East Village condo construction as downtown sprawls eastward.

Urban Transformation

Calgary’s thriving downtown has literally transformed the Beltline into a parade of show condos; there are new condos being built on almost every other block.  Over the past decade, the Beltline has evolved into one of North America’s best yuppie communities with great restaurants, cafes, pubs, clubs, two grocery stores and a health food store.

Everyone knows about the incredible transformation underway in East Village, designed to become a new urban village of 10,000 people. There are currently more construction cranes in East Village than in the entire downtown core!

And, of course there is Bridgeland where the old General Hospital site is in its final phases its master planned redevelopment.  Mission is quickly becoming the Mount Royal of condo living with numerous luxury condos along the Elbow River.

More recently, the Hillhurst/Sunnyside community is also experiencing the impact of downtown sprawl with several new, mid-rise (under 10 floors) condos recently completed, under construction or in the design phase. New urban-type condos (main floor retail with condos above) area also popping up in Marda Loop, West Hillhurst and Montgomery – with more to come.

But the impact of downtown sprawl doesn’t stop here. There are plans for several new planned urban infill villages - Currie Barracks, Jacques Lodge, West Campus, University City, Stadium Shopping Centre and Westbrook Village. 

Each of these planned, mixed-use developments has been carefully researched in collaboration with the neighbouring communities and City Planners to create “walkable” villages where residents’ everyday needs will be within walking distance. They will also be well served by public transit, allowing easy access not only to neighbouring employment centers, but also to downtown. In fact, Currie Barracks' key marketing message is "An urban village only seven minutes from downtown." 

Over the next few months, I will be profiling each of these new urban villages.  

Creating great urban places to live is more than densification i.e. building more condos.  The Bridges has created a new Main Street for the Bridgeland community incorporating both old and new retail spaces. 

University City will create a new urban hub at the Brentwood LRT station. 

St. John's on 10th is just one of many new mid-rise condo developments in the Kensington Village area.  This is a model new urban community as it integrates old and new, single-family, small apartments/condos, low and mid-rise residential, with strong retail and an LRT station. 

Inner City Makeover

In addition to the new urban villages, Downtown sprawl is responsible for the incredible demand for inner city single-family infill housing.  Over the past five years, inner city communities from Altadore to Tuxedo and from Inglewood to Spruce Cliff, Calgary’s inner city communities have become a parade of infill show homes. 

From 2008 to 2013, 3,345 new infill homes (excluding condominiums and apartments) were built in Calgary's inner city communities.  At three people per home, that is the equivalent of building an entire new community for 10,000 people.  Most new communities take 10 to 15 years to build out (e.g. Aspen Woods), yet we have, in effect, built a new inner-city community in just five years. 

The value of these new homes is estimated at one billion dollars, equivalent to the value of one major office tower the size of Eight Avenue Place or the Bow. These homeowners will pay $15 million in dollars in property taxes per year; about five times what was being paid by the small cottage homes they replaced.

New infill homes mean new families moving into the inner city, a very healthy evolution as young families bring a new energy to schools, parks, playgrounds, recreation centres and local retailers. 

Even some major businesses are looking beyond the traditional greater downtown, boundaries for office space. A good example would be the relocation of Venture Communications last year to the old UMA building at the corner of Memorial Drive and Kensington Road in West Hillhurst last.  Recently, the Calgary Co-op opened a liquor store next to Venture Communications and rumor has it that a New York Style café opening on the same block.

The Memorial Drive / Kensington Road corner (in the early 1900s this area was called Happyland) has the potential to become a micro-hub; there already are several professional offices, a convenience store, two sportswear stores and Bob’s Pizza/Pub nearby. Another rumor has Phil & Sebastian and Starbucks looking for a location in the West Hillhurst area, further evidence that the influence of downtown’s growth is spreading north and west. 

Lane housing in West Hillhurst.

Main Street Montgomery has added a new condo with retail at street level.  There are dozens of new infills under construction in this community. 

Venture Communications new head office in an area of West Hillhurst once called Happyland. 

The Calgary Co-op liquor store is more evidence of the urbanization of the West Hillhurst community. 

A parade of new infill homes in West Hillhurst.

Calgary is Unique

While some may lament the loss of the tiny cottage homes and the independent mom and pop shops, and that includes me sometimes the old adage rings true - change is the only constant in life.  And, in community development I might add.

I liken community development to gardening.  Plants grow for a few years, but eventually, some die and some need to be split and transplanted.  A garden needs constant attention – new planting, weeding, fertilizing, deadheading and pruning.  A community, like a garden, is never static; it is growing or it is dying.

Over the past year, I have visited numerous cities across North America (Winnipeg, Hamilton, London, Memphis, Phoenix, Denver, Salt Lake City, Tucson and Portland) all of which would love to have the downtown sprawl Calgary has.  

Instead of complaining, we should consider ourselves very fortunate and capitalize on the opportunity to make a good city great.  Calgary has an incredible opportunity to transform its established single-family oriented communities into vibrant new mixed-use urban ones - thanks to a thriving downtown.

Calgary's International Avenue Deserves More Respect

By Richard White, June 26, 2014 (An edited version of this blog appeared in the Calgary Herald's Neighbours feature titled "Eclectic International Avenue is changing.") 

For many Calgarians, International Avenue (17th Ave SE) is on the wrong side of the “Deerfoot Divide” i.e. they never go east of Deerfoot Trail. Too bad. They don’t know what they are missing. 

 International Avenue has 425 businesses along its 5-km stretch of 17th Avenue SE between 26th and 61st Streets.  Under the leadership of the International Avenue Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ) formed in 1993, these small independent businesses have continued to thrive - some for over 40 years – Gunther’s Fine Baking, Illichmann’s Deli, Harmony Lane, Totem (now Rona) and Calgary Co-op to name a few. Over 30% of the businesses are food-related, with many wholesaling to Calgary’s upscale restaurants, hotels and food trucks. 

To some, International Avenue is a hodgepodge of one to three storey buildings from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s.  There are few chain stores (Target picked International Avenue for one of its first Calgary stores) mostly local “mom and pop” shops.  It’s also a place where you are likely to hear a dozen different languages spoken within a few blocks. In the words of Executive Director Alison Karim-McSwiney, “it has a small town feel with a global marketplace.”

John Gilchrist, Calgary’s foodie guru and author of “My Favourite Restaurants Calgary, Canmore and Banff spends a lot of time on International Avenue. Why? “On this strip, you find food cultures as close as they come to their native lands.  It lives up to its name ‘International Avenue’ with great restaurants like Mimo (Portuguese), Fassil (Ethiopian), Pho Binh Minh (Vietnamese) and many other favourites of mine,” says Gilchrist.

Similarly, Mike Kehoe, Fairfield Commercial thinks International Avenue is “an eclectic commercial strip where ‘the world meets the wild west.’ I love the mix of ethnic tastes with dining options from around the globe and the interesting retail diversity along 17th Avenue SE where it seems anything is commercially possible.”

Unity Park is just one of the many improvements the International Avenue BRZ has spear headed since its inception. 

Desert on 52nd is just one of the many mouth-watering bakeries along the Avenue. They even have diabetic baklava. 

Tipping Point

International Avenue is at the “tipping point” of change with many major new projects in the works. One example is artBox, a 5,4000 square foot multi-purpose art space located in the old Mill’s Painting Building (1807 – 42nd ST SE) with studios and performance space for local artists. Almost anything goes at artBox from Aboriginal to African art.  It is quickly becoming a meeting place for artists from diverse ethnic backgrounds and anyone interested in art. 

International Avenue is also home to an active mural program initiated in 2001; the murals capture the ethnic diversity of the community. In 2014, two new murals will be added to the collection, one celebrating the community’s African cultures and the other its Italian heritage.

In 2010, the City of Calgary working with the communities and the International Avenue BRZ, approved the Southeast 17 Corridor Land Use and Urban Design Plan that recognized International Avenue as one of the City’s important urban corridors.  As a result Land Use changes to allow for more mixed-use developments will result in the addition of 13,000 new residents and 9,000 new jobs to the community over the next 30 years. 

The International Avenue BRZ also successfully lobbied the City to designate land for new 1,000-seat arts and culture performance space.  City funding is also in place to create a BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) route along 17th Avenue SE as part of its Green Line that will provide better east/west transit connectivity.

Artists rendering of International Avenue's proposed performing arts cultural centre. 

An old paint store gets new life as artBox. 

An old paint store gets new life as artBox. 

A rendering of the vision for International Avenue as a tree lined boulevard that integrates auto, bus rapid transit, pedestrian friendly sidewalks and mid-rise condos and offices. 

Festival Fun

International Avenue is home to not one, but two signature events – “Around the World in 35 Blocks” and “Global Fest.”  Initiated in 1997, “Around the World in 35 blocks” is a food tour that happens 14 times a year and everyone is sold out. The June 28 tour is already sold out, so reserve your tickets now for the August 23 or September 27 tours.  These fun bus tours (35 people) take you to five different continents, sampling food from places like Asia, Africa, Middle East, Portugal and the Caribbean. 

Global Fest is an international fireworks festival as well as the “One World” multi-cultural festival.  The fun and festivities take place at Elliston Park, with its 20-hectare pond (the size of Prince’s Island).  This year’s festival takes place August 14 to 25.

Market Collective a diverse group of young artisans now calls International Avenue home; this is an example of how International Avenue is quickly becoming Calgary's new hipster district. 

No Respect

While Calgary’s “other 17th Avenue” doesn’t have the cache of 17th Avenue SW, to those in the know, it is one of Calgary’s hidden gems – especially if you get out of your car and explore.

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Flaneuring fun in downtown Tucson

Richard White, June 22, 2014 

Some days we just like to head out and explore without any particular agenda or destination. This is particularly fun in urban places where there are usually lots of surprises that aren't in the tourist brochures.  It is a must that you have to walk the street to find the surprises - you won't find them driving or cycling by.   

Recently, I was browsing our photos from our 8,907 km Spring Break 2014 Road Trip and found a collection of images from a fun day of flaneuring in downtown Tucson that I thought would make a nice "everyday tourist" photo essay. 

The great thing about flaneuring is its FREE, you can do it anywhere and you can do it everyday! 

One of our favourite things to do when exploring an urban place is "window licking."  I find images like this as interesting or more interesting than anything in an art gallery.

Who knew a beautiful orange tree could grow (kinda) in downtown Tucson. 

Gotta love a drive in liquor store deli.

Perhaps the world's most colourful colonnade can be found attached to the Goodwill building. 

More window licking fun. 

The Chicago Music Store was a real find.  Family owned since 1919 it is fun place to explore - part music store part museum. 

The Chicago Music Store was a real find.  Family owned since 1919 it is fun place to explore - part music store part museum. 

Retro neon signage adds as much or more visual interest to a streetscape as most public art. 

Ran into a wedding and these young men were more than willing to pose for a photograph - everyone was having fun (see girls in background). 

Sure Portland and Vancouver have their food trucks, but what about an art truck? 

Public art as transit shelter?  Tacky? Fun? Clever? 

Butterflies & Skeletons? Tucson has a rich high and low brow culture. 

More fun signage as public art!

More fun signage as public art!

We did not explore the roof-top patio at the Playground Lounge but it definitely adds an element of fun to Congress St. 

You won't find this postcard image in any of Tucson's tourist information brochures. 

Nor this one!

Nor this one!

Heading home we discovered Tucson's Rattlesnake pedestrian bridge that links the southside residents to downtown who are cut off from downtown by a 6-lane highway.  

Inside the rattlesnake!

Rattlesnake tail plaza. And, yes there is rattle sound as you pass by!

Exploring Phoenix Without A Car!

Richard White, June 20, 2014

One of the things that has discouraged us from visiting Phoenix is that we thought you had to have a car to explore the city.  First off, we are thrifty so adding hundreds of dollars per week to a vacation is something we avoid. Second, we love to walk and take transit when we travel as it allows us to to see more and experience the city more like a local. (Blog: Everyday Tourist Transit Tales)

But our recent stay at the Red Lion Inn and Suites in Tempe (RLIST) proved us wrong - in fact you don’t need a car to explore Phoenix’s many attractions.  “How could that be you ask?” 

Red Lion provides an airport shuttle service that will pick you up at the airport and take you back.  And, while you are staying there, two vans are available to take guests to anywhere within a five-mile radius. What a great amenity!

Five Mile Zone

Within the five-mile zone of RLIST, you can get dropped off and picked up at the following places:

  • Arizona State University campus (a great place to explore and during football season, you have easy access to college football games.
  • ASU Karsten, Pagao, Rolling Hills, Rio and Coronade golf courses
  • Old Town Scottsdale (where you can shop ‘til you drop).
  • Desert Botanical Gardens, Phoenix Zoo, Tempe Beach Park
  • Tempe Marketplace and Tempe Mill Avenue District
  • Gammage Memorial Auditorium, the last commission of Frank Lloyd Wright.  
  • Downtown Tempe where you can catch the LRT train to downtown Phoenix giving you access to baseball and basketball games and the Science Center. Or, stay on the train to Phoenix Art Museum, Heard Art Museum (great gift shop and restaurant) and the hipster Melrose district.
  • During spring training you can get dropped off at the Cubs’ Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, the A’s Phoenix Municipal Stadium and the Giant’s Scottsdale Stadium.
  • Popular festivals include: Arizona Renaissance Festival, Great Arizona Beer Festival, Scottsdale Culinary Festival and Tempe Festival of the Arts. 
Riding the LRT to downtown with the students and cyclists was a much more urban experience than we had anticipated. 

Riding the LRT to downtown with the students and cyclists was a much more urban experience than we had anticipated. 

Phoenix's downtown wayfinding sign lists many attractions. 

Theatre/Performing Arts Centre 

Heard Museum's lovely patio restaurant. 

Modern On Melrose is just one of several antique and second hand stores that make for a fun place to explore.

Papago Golf Course is just minutes away from RLIST. 

"Her Secret is Patience" by Janet Echelman is just one of many public artworks in the downtown. 

Exploring the Desert Botanical Garden was one of the highlights of our visit. 

ArtWalk in Old Town Scottsdale is a 30-year tradition.  Dozens of galleries open their doors to locals and tourists to browse the galleries every Thursday from 7 to 9 pm.  Old Town is several blocks of restaurants, bars, shops and galleries.  Not far way there is Scottsdale Fashion Square a two million square foot mega luxury shopping centre with flagships stores like - Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus, Nordstroms, Microsoft and Banana Republic concept store. 

Extended Stays

RLIST in its former life was an apartment complex, making the suites more like comfortable, and one-bedroom apartments. With Food City within walking distance, you can easily walk to shop for ingredients to make dinner or lunch. (Note: the hotel provides a complimentary hearty breakfast).

The lobby, with its soft seating has a café-like atmosphere for those who want to read or take their laptop to do some work or surf the net.

The Inn also has an attractive outdoor pool area if you want to relax poolside or enjoy a refreshing swim. There’s even BBQs so you can grill up your favourite food to enjoy poolside just like home.

And for golfers who want to work on their putting, they have a carpeted putting green.

RLIST's very functional living room, kitchen, bedroom layout. (Photo credit: Red Lion) 

Large bedroom with space for chair and desk. (Photo credit: Red Lion).

Your own private putting green....12+ on the stimpmeter. 


 If you need a car for a day or two to travel further afield, the shuttle can also drop you off at several car rental offices within the five-mile zone. We’d recommend checking out the Frank Lloyd Wright campus and the Musical Instruments Museum if you decide to rent a car.

The advantage of the RLIST shuttle for couples is that you can go off in different directions in the morning and meet up later for your own poolside Happy Hour chat to share stories.  

We are definitely rethinking Phoenix as a potential winter getaway next year.

P.S.  If you do have a car, RLIST has great free parking that makes it easy to drive to some activities and take the shuttle to others (perhaps you want to enjoy an adult beverage or two). 

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Public Art vs Playgrounds in the 21st Century

Note: On September 27,  2014 Richmond, B.C. tourism officials will open an one-hectare, one million dollar playground based on the area's agricultural history. The playground is located in Terra Nova Park in the northwest corner of Lulu Island, on the site of a former farm house and stables. The playground includes a farm inspired water and sand play area, and a "log-jam" - a climbable timber structure that mimics walking on beach logs. There is also tandem 35-meter-long ziplines, a tree house and aerial rope walkway.  The new playground is being billed as a tourist attraction. FYI - this is Richmond's second million dollar playground, the first was Garden City Community Park, built in 2008.

Kids climbing on the log jam structure. 

Kids climbing on the log jam structure. 

In the 21st century slides and climbing structures take on a whole new dimension. 

In the 21st century slides and climbing structures take on a whole new dimension. 

By Richard White, June 16, 2014

Over the past decade in Calgary (and I expect in many cities around the world), children’s playgrounds have become more and more colourful, creative, sculptural and elaborate.  No longer do a few simple swings, metal slide, teeter-totter and “rocking” duck or horse sufficient for the 21st century playground. I am told by my friends at Ground3 Landscape Architecture that $100,000 would get you a reasonably sized playground and $30,000 get you one small combined play piece.  Since 2010, the Parks Foundation Calgary through the Playgrounds and Communities Grant Program has funded over 100 new playgrounds in Calgary valued at $15 million - many in low income communities. 

While Calgary may not have bragging rights a having one of the top ten playgrounds in the world, our children are blessed with over 1250 playgrounds in parks and schoolyards across the city – that’s about six playgrounds per community.  Nobody is more than a few blocks from a playground in this city.  Perhaps Calgary’s moniker should be The City of Playgrounds.

One of my favourite mid-century modern playgrounds is located in Lakeview. It is interesting in that it is only accessible by walking along a tree-lined pathway from Linden Dr. SW, as there are no streets directly adjacent to the pocket park and its playground. It truly is a hidden gem.  Some of the original playground equipment is still in use and I hope the community will recognize its uniqueness and keep the retro equipment.

Lakeview's hidden playground with simple retro playground equipment - rocking horse and small metal slide. 

Parkdale's Helicopter Park is one of Calgary's most popular playgrounds. The park is looked just below Foothill's hospital and its heliport, hence the park's name as helicopters flying over area a common sight. 

Smaller Backyards / Bigger Playgrounds

I am not sure if it is true, but it seems, as private backyards get smaller, (today’s housing lots are smaller due to infilling in the inner city and mandated smaller lots in new suburbs) there are fewer large backyard swing sets that were poplar in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Or perhaps trampolines, hot tubs and the mega deck with their outdoor kitchens have replaced them.  As result: community playgrounds are becoming more important for young families and those caregivers, grandparents etc., looking after children.  Personally, I think this is great. It means more community socializing which in turn, helps create stronger neighbourhood ties.

I remember one spring day after school; we took the seven-year-old twins next door to the playground across out street. Soon, several other families joined us and before long, we had a community soccer game happening with 4 parents and 8 kids.  Gotta love an impromptu community soccer game. 

Given the recent controversy over public art in Calgary and most other cities (too often, public art is difficult for the public to appreciate, or is simply just not that good), I can’t help but wonder if maybe we should be focusing on commissioning artists to design playground equipment that would be fun and inventive. Imagine if every playground was a mini artpark.

Imagine a scaled down Wonderland (big white head sculpture at the Bow office tower) in the middle of a park where children, teens and adults could climb on it.  There is something innate about human wanting to climb things. Once when I was at the Bow, I saw an office worker climbing Wonderland in his suite and dress shoes (actually he took off his jacket) - he had no problem getting to the top. Unfortunately, the Bow now has security to chase away would be climbers.

It is interesting too how the two mega public art works in Chicago’s Millennium - Park Cloud Gate and Crown Fountain - have become as much playgrounds as public art.

Could we also encourage landscape architects to be more creative in their design of parks and public spaces?  Whenever walking Rossi (our friends’ dog) at River Park, I am always impressed by the “cluster planting” of trees that capitalizes on the subtle synergy of their sculptural shapes as well as the strategic placement of benches to capture vistas of the park, river and downtown skyline. There is an aesthetic quality to the design of the River Park that is very similar to art.  


Calgary office workers just can't resist climbing Wonderland. You can take the child out of the playground, but you can't take the play out of the man!

Jaume Plensa's Crown Fountain in Chicago's Millennium Park is a playground for locals and tourist of all ages.

Cloud Gate, also in Chicago's Millennium Park is a magnet for people to look and play with it.

This well-treed playground in Chicago'sGold Coast community attracted dozens of families mid-week, mid-day in April.

Calgary's Beltline community is one of Canada's most dense communities. It boast this very popular playground in Haultain Park.  Downtown Calgary is very family friendly. 

New playgrounds have lots of fun colourful climbing equipment that has many parallels with modern art. 

The mono-chromatic blue playground in Tuxedo also has many links to art - line, colour, shape and composition. 

The trees in River Park have a sculptural quality to them.  Overall the park with its diversity of trees, rolling landscape is

New Trends in Playground Design

Perhaps the best playground I have ever seen was in Container Park in Las Vegas.  In the middle of a new urban development made of railway containers was a fun children’s playground the size of half a football field.  At one end was a computerized piece of playground equipment that could be programmed so people of all ages could play games of their choice. At the other end was a three-storey tree house that was fun to climb.  In between were other interactive play areas – no swings, no slides and no teeter-totter here. 

Surrounding the playground were outdoor patios where people could sit and watch – providing some of the best people watching I have ever done. The new “digital” playground components have great appeal especially to adolescents and adding a new dimension to playgrounds.

 In the UK, the Dinton Pastures Country Park (335-acre park with 7 lakes, two rivers, meadows and a 1904 farm house converted to a cafe) recently opened a new Children’s Play Park that epitomizes the movement to use more natural materials as part of playground design. The park includes several nest towers, the largest 4 meters tall, zip wires, giant climbing logs, a willow maze, story-telling area, woodlands obstacle course and picnic area. Designed by landscape architects Davies White in collaboration with artists and fabricators, local materials were used as much as possible.  View Video

The newest trend in playground equipment is computerized games that are attractive to younger children and parents during the day and my young adults at night.

Young adults enjoying the Container Park playground

While these lounge chairs have been removed from East Village's Riverwalk, they would make for a good addition to another neighbourhood park as kids would love to climb over and under them and adolescents and adults would use them to lounge and chat. They also have a wonderful sculptural quality to them. 

This Henry Moore sculpture in front of the Art Gallery of Ontario becomes a fun place for older children and adolescents to hang out and chat.

Parque Gulliver

Parque Gulliver in Valencia Spain is Cristal McLean's (principal at Ground3 Landscape Architects) favourite playground. Located in the old channel of the Turia River, the playground is based on the story of Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. As per the story, a giant wanders into town and scares the tine Lilliputian people so they tied him to the ground while sleeping. Today it is the children who are the Lilliputian people who can climb all over the giant. trying to get to know him.  The sleeves become caves to explore, the legs are stairs to climb and the hair is a slide.  And its free!  First built in 1990, it was completely refurbished in 2012 and continues to be one of Valencia's biggest tourist attractions. 

Parque Gulliver aerial view

Every part of the giant is available to climb on and slide down. 

Giant ant is both public art and a playground. 

Last Word

The more I think about it, the more it makes sense to me that we should be hybridizing public art and playgrounds to create public spaces that are more interactive.  We should think long and hard before we ever commission a static public artwork again.

Similarly, I would love to see landscape architects be given freer reign to exercise their creativity in designing our parks and plazas.

Perhaps Calgary should change its current “1% of capital project costs for public art” policy to “1% of capital project costs for public space enhancement” to allow us to better create unique and active public spaces that more citizens can embrace at some level year-round for years to come.

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The Calgary Stampede MEGA Makeover Has Begun!

Richard White, June 11, 2014

After the devastating flood of 2013, the Calgary Stampede had some tough decisions to make as the Board and Management pondered its future. Rather than just fix the place up, the Stampede commenced with its mega-million dollar makeover plan. 

Calgarians won’t recognize this year’s Stampede Park. Almost 50% of the outdoor space has been reconfigured and several major new players are participating for the first time!     

Aerial view of reconfigured Calgary Stampede Grounds (photo credit: Calgary Stampede)

Nine things to know about Stampede 2014…. 


The Great FUNtier is the name of the Stampede’s new Kids Zone.  It has been moved to the area south of the Saddledome and north of the racetrack.  The space, now 25% larger than the old Kids Zone, will allow for more greenery, easier stroller maneuvering and more seating.  In addition to the kid’s midway, there will also be a mini Grandstand Stage for live entertainment. 

The location is also convenient to the family-oriented agricultural programming at the new Agrium Western Event Centre and the RCMP Musical Ride tent.

Did you know that park admission is free for kids under 6?  There is also free admission for children aged 7 to 12 on specially marked Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero in stores now.

Lollipop Swings (photo credit: Calgary Stampede)

The new FUNtier slide (photo credit: Calgary Stampede)

The new FUNtier slide (photo credit: Calgary Stampede)


The Grandstand Show is getting a makeover by new Creative Director, Dave Pierce who was the Musical Director for Vancouver’s Winter Olympics' opening and closing ceremonies. Pierce, an Emmy Award winner, brings a new vision and energy to Grandstand extravaganza. The theme for this year’s show is “Barnburner.” The opening segment features Tom Glass (one of Alberta famous chuckwagon families) telling his family’s story using a series of mega comic book action figures.   

The costumes for Barnburner have been designed by Genvieve Cleary and built by Marco Marco Studio, famous for designing the costumes of Katie Perry and Britney Spears. 

The permanent stage is also being completely redesigned by Paul Bates who was responsible for Cirque Du Soleil’s “O” stage.  It includes the latest in pyrotechnics and amazing stage effects capacity. The new stage will be one of Canada's most technologically advanced theatrical stages. 

Sample of mega action figure comic book visual. (photo credit: Calgary Stampede)


The new $62 million Agrium Western Event Centre (AWEC) with its dramatic rotunda entrance designed by Calgary’s Gibbs Gage Architects, is just the beginning of rebuilding Stampede Park.  The new building which opened recently adds much needed, year-round event and trade show space as well as a classroom for hands-on school programs.  AWEC has already hosted Canada’s largest ever 4H club gathering.

Agrium Western Event Centre (photo credit: Calgary Stampede)

Agrium Western Event Centre (photo credit: Calgary Stampede)


Nashville North has moved “north,” closer to Cowboys Dance Hall tent and the Stampede Casino to create a “party zone” - some have already dubbed it the adult entertainment zone (good clean fun of course)! This could be an interesting precursor to the creation of the year- round Stampede Trail – a pedestrian entertainment-oriented street of retail, restaurants, pubs and clubs along Olympic Way (4th Street SE) linking it with East Village.

Nashville North is a mega dance hall (capacity 1850 people) with live bands all day and into the wee hours of the morning! (photo credit: Calgary Stampede)


“Sneak a Peek!” Paul Hardy has been engaged to procure some uber-chic 2014 Stampede merchandise, some of which is already available at Hardy’s Inglewood studio tucked away at Bay#5, 2510 Alyth Rd. SE. in Calgary's funky Inglewood/Ramsay community.

Paul Hardy's cowgirl fun fashions. (photo credit: Calgary Stampede)

More Paul Hardy's fashions! (photo credit: Calgary Stampede)


“Go Big or Go Home” could be the theme of this year’s Stampede with the introduction of the 777-pound burger ($5,000) and the 125-pound hot dog ($1,000).  Juicy’s Outlaw Grill is bringing the world’s largest grill (the size of a transportation truck) to this year’s Stampede. This is a first in Canada.  Check out the video.


Biggest Pop-up Patio? Triple B (Barbecue, Bulls, Beer) is also making its first visit to Canada creating a patio for you and 999 of your closest friends. With two mechanical bulls on site, it should make for great people-watching.   

Mechanical Bull Riding at the new Triple B patio. (photo credit: Calgary Stampede)


WWW Food!  Every year the Stampede brings some wild, weird and wacky food combinations to Calgary. This year is no exception.  The Scorpion Pizza has to be the weirdest, followed closely by Deep Fried Cheezies, Polish Poutine, Porcupine Corn Dog, and Vicious Fish on a Stick. 

Yikes! Scorpion Pizza. (photo credit: Calgary Stampede)


Did you know the Calgary Stampede is one of North America’s biggest music festivals? For the first time, the Dome is fully booked with shows every night by the likes of Shania Twain, Reba McEntire, Keith Urban and Calgary’s own Paul Brandt. In total Stampede 2014 includes over 340 musical performances at 15 different venues. 

Canada's sweetheart. (photo credit: Calgary Stampede)


2012 was the Stampede's 100th birthday, 2013 was the year of the Great Flood and 2014 will be remembered as the beginning of the new 21st century Calgary Stampede.  The Calgary Stampede is truly one of the best annual festivals in the world. It is six major events all wrapped up into one mega extravaganza - Grandstand Show, Rodeo, Chuckwagon Races, Midway, Agricultural Fair and Music Festival.   

Stampede Park is not only one of North America's best and oldest urban Agricultural Fair sites, but also one of the largest, busiest and most authentic SHED districts (Sports, Hospitality, Entertainment District) in North America.

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Calgary's Learning City is blooming!

By Richard White,  June 4, 2014

While much of Calgary’s urban development debate seems to revolve around new suburbs vs. City Centre i.e. Downtown, East Village, Beltline and Bridgeland vs. Seton, Cityscape and Walden, there is a mega transformation happening in the northwest. 

I doubt many Calgarians are aware of the multi-billion dollar investments that have been or are being planned for Foothills Hospital (teaching hospital), SAIT / ACAD (Alberta College of Art and Design) and the University of Calgary.  These three campuses, all located within about five kilometers of each other, are the economic engines of Calgary’s emerging “Learning City,” which extends from the Bow River north to Nose Hill and from SAIT Campus to Shaganappi Trail.

The Alberta Children's Hospital has added a new dimension to Calgary's growing learning city. It is also one of Calgary's signature modern architectural buildings. 

The Children's Development Centre located across the street from the Alberta Children's Hospital is home to several agencies that help children in need.  It was one of Calgary's first LEED buildings. 

Calgary's Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) has undergone a billion dollar expansion over the past 10 years.   

Calgary's Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) has undergone a billion dollar expansion over the past 10 years.  

SAIT's Heritage Hall is Calgary's finest historic building.

SAIT's Heritage Hall is Calgary's finest historic building.

Catalytic Projects

The Learning City has numerous catalytic projects on the books, which will reshape it over the next 15 to 20 years into a more all-inclusive city. For example, along its “Crowchild Trail Corridor” there are major developments at several LRT stations including the transformation of the Brentwood Mall into University City village with highrise and midrise condos, retail, restaurants and other amenities designed to appeal to students, young medical professionals and empty nesters. 

The Dalhousie LRT Station is also adding mid-rise condo development on its west side, turning it into a more mixed-use station when factoring in the retail on the east side.  And this is just step one in the evolution of this station into a more diverse urban place. 

Motel Village (the collection of old motels across from McMahon Stadium) is also quietly evolving.  A new office building was completed a few years back and plans for upgrading the motels and hotels has begun with the new Aloft Hotel slated to open in February. The University of Calgary is also looking at the potential to redevelop the McMahon Stadium site, studying if this is the best use of site given it gets used to its maximum about 10 times a year.  Given stadium and playing fields proximity to the LRT, the university, hospitals and downtown, it’s “prime picking” for transit-oriented, mixed-use development. 

As well, the mid-century Stadium Shopping Centre is past its “best before” date, with the city having approved zoning to allow for 800,000 square feet of mix of retail, residential, office and hotel buildings this will become a “community within a community.”  The development will be synergistic with the needs of Foothills Hospital workers and visitors, as well as the neighbouring residential community.

But the biggest catalytic project for the “Learning City” is the West Campus project. It will see 205 acres of underutilized University of Calgary campus land immediately west of the Olympic Oval converted into a 21st century walkable “live, work, play” community.  The area already includes the Alberta Children’s Hospital, Ronald MacDonald House, Child Development Centre, University’s Physical Plant and family housing.  While the final plans are still being developed you can be sure the new village will include parks, pathways, a central plaza and community gardens all carefully linked to a variety of housing types, retail, restaurants and personal services, as well as office space. While no specific date has been set for the start of construction, this will be probably be a 2016 to 2025 project.

McMahon Stadium site is currently being looked at by the University of Calgary to determine how it might be redeveloped. (Image courtesy of Ross Aitken, Remax)

Owners of the Stadium Shopping Center (highlighted in yellow), which is located across from the Foothills Hospital are working with the City and community to create a mixed-use (residential, retail, office and hotel) village.  (Image courtesy of Ross Aitken, Remax)

The proposed West Campus university town is well conceived and is already getting lots of interest from developers. (Image courtesy of West Campus Development Trust).

A great place to play!

The Learning City boast some of Calgary’s best urban amenities from indoor shopping (Market, North Hill and Northland Malls), to bobo street retail and restaurants in Bowness and Montgomery.  

Abundant recreational facilities exist - from Shouldice Park to Canada Olympic Park and numerous City of Calgary indoor recreational facilities.  The University and SAIT also offer major recreation facilities to students, faculty and public, not the least of which is the Olympic Oval. It is also home to some of Calgary’s biggest and best parks – Nose Hill, Bowness and Bowmont.

Culturally, the University of Calgary has several performing art spaces for music, theatre and dance.  ACAD is home to the Illingsworth Kerr Gallery and its renowned semi-annual student art sales popular for those looking to start an art collection.   And of course, the Jubilee Theatre is part of the SAIT/ACAD campus.

For those interested in adult education on any given evening everything from travel classes at the University, to culinary classes at SAIT, to art classes at ACAD can be had. 

A great place to live!

The Learning City also offers a diversity of housing options. Upscale communities like Briar Hill, Hounsfield Heights and St. Andrew’s Heights have many spectacular million-dollar view lots along the north bluff of the Bow River.  Both St. Andrew’s Heights and Varsity Estates qualify as million dollar communities as the value of the average home sale is now over one million dollars.

There are lots of new single and duplex housing in all of the communities bordering the Learning City’s employment centers, with new infill construction on almost every block.  These homes with their modern kitchens, three bedrooms and developed basements are particularly attractive to young families.  

The Learning City is very family-friendly with numerous school options (public, Catholic, charter and private) from kindergarten through to high school, post-secondary and university and colleges, as well as Renfrew and Woods Home schools for special needs.

University City at Brentwood Mall will be the first high-rise living with its two colourful 20-story towers (tallest buildings north of the Bow River) – one Royal Gold (yellow) and one Sunlit Topaz (orange).  This emerging urban village will appeal to those wanting a more urban lifestyle with all of the amenities walking distance away and the university across the street. 

The Renaissance condos offer a unique lifestyle in Calgary as they are attached to the North Hill shopping center, which means you can shop without having to go outside.  There is a library just a half a block away and the Lions Park LRT station is across the street. It simply doesn’t get any better than that.

West Campus will create a 21st century pedestrian-oriented community for 15,000 or more people. 

The first two University City towers which are part of a mega transformation of the land east of the Brentwood LRT station from a retail power centre, into a mixed-use transit oriented urban village. 

The Renaissance condos are attached to the North Hill shopping mall and are within l walking distance of SAIT and Lion's Park LRT Station.

Last Word

Today, on any given day, nearly 100,000 people visit Calgary's Learning City (University of Calgary, SAIT/ACAD, Foothills Hospital, Children’s Hospital, Market and North Hill Malls to work and shop, or attend a class or medical appointment. Currently, 55,000+ people live in Learning City communities; this could double over the next 15 years.

By 2030, the University of Calgary campus could be the heart of a new city with its own culture based on academia, wellness and sports excellence. It could be surrounded by several vibrant self-sustaining pedestrian-oriented urban villages e.g. West Campus, University City, Stadium Village and McMahon Village (redevelopment of McMahon stadium site).  

Dubai Healthcare City looks very similar to the proposed the West Campus Development Trust's plan for the University of Calgary's West Campus. 

Launched in 2002, Dubai's Healthcare City (DHCC) is home to two hospitals, over 120 outpatient medical centers and diagnostic laboratories with over 4,000 licensed professionals occupying a total of 4.1 million square feet of medical facilities. 

Dubai is also home to the  Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) as part of their city’s master plan.  Formed in 2007, it currently has 20,000 students from 125 nationalities and offers over 400 higher education programs. The campus has 18 million square feet of state-of-the-art facilities. 

Like Dubai, Calgary's Learning City is blooming into one of the world's more interesting urban places for healthcare, academic and athletes to live, work and play. 

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Glenbow: A new kind of art museum

By Richard White,  June1 , 2014

(An edited version of this blog appeared in the New Condos section of the Calgary Herald, titled "Vibrant vision fires up Glenbow fans" on Saturday, May 31, 2014)

Great cities have great museums! New York City has several - Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim and Metropolitan Museum of Art. Paris has the Louvre, Centre Pompidou, Musee d’Orsay and Rodin Museum.  Everyday tens of thousands of locals and visitors invade the city centres of London and Paris to be entertained, educated and enlightened by a museum experience.  The diversity and quality of the museum experience is critical to understanding of a city’s history and sense of place, both for locals and tourists.  The importance of museums in defining a city was reinforced during our recent 6-week US road trip, where we toured 24 different museums and art galleries in places like Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Tucson, Albuquerque, Colorado Springs, Denver and Helena.

In Calgary, the Glenbow Museum is both our art and history museum.  For many years now it has struggled with this dual role.  Attendance and membership have not grown over the past 25 years despite the city’s doubling of population, as well as the number of its downtown workers.  

Recently, Donna Livingstone celebrated her one-year anniversary as Glenbow’s President & CEO. I thought it was timely to check in with her learn about her plans for the Glenbow.

The Building

Livingstone was quick to say the Glenbow has no plans to move out of the downtown. In fact, the current Glenbow building is in very good shape and what is needed is just modest renovations to the exterior and interior exhibition spaces.

She reminded me that when the Glenbow was designed and built (in the mid to late ‘60s), 9th Avenue was THE place to be with its new Calgary Tower, Convention Centre and hotel, as well as the train station and the grand Palliser Hotel. Today, 8th Avenue has become Calgary’s signature street so the museum needs to re-orient its entrance to the northside.  Her vision includes a new welcoming Stephen Avenue Walk entrance with an enhanced gallery shop, cafe and bold new signage.

Livingstone would also like to see the second floor look like a contemporary art gallery, not a convention centre space. This could be accomplished with a new ceiling and lighting, as well as the removal of the carpet to allow for a polished concrete floor, a relatively “mini-makeover” so to speak. 

Livingstone is looking at a mega-makeover of the third floor, which, in the past, has always been reserved for a major history exhibition that is on view for 10+ years without any changes (often leading to the comment “nothing ever changes at the Glenbow”).

She sees this floor becoming a multi-purpose space for art, artefacts, readings and performances that explore both the new West to the old West from multiple perspectives, genres and artistic practices. Using in-house expertise, combined with guest curators and other cultural groups locally, nationally and internationally, she wants to aggressively program the space to tell Calgary, southern Alberta and Western Canada stories. It is an ambitious and compelling vision that integrates and hybridizes modern art practices with historical documentation. It is the beginning of what she calls “a new kind of art museum.”  

As the fourth floor doesn’t have the high ceilings needed for today’s contemporary art and history exhibitions, her vision is to transform this space into a “hands-on” educational gallery for people of all ages and backgrounds.  In addition to the educational activities, it will include display cases filled with art and artifacts from the Glenbow’s collection that will rotate on a regular basis so “there will always be something new at the Glenbow!”

The Glenbow from 9th Avenue looking northwest. 

Many many years ago I attended a visioning workshop on Downtown Calgary and the group I was in looked at how the Glenbow and the Calgary Tower might look in the future.  This is the image we create of the future Glenbow.  

Glenbow's entrance from Stephen Avenue Walk.

While regular passenger train service not longer exists in Calgary, Downtown's 9th Avenue is home to the Canadian Pacific Railway Pavilion, which houses the vintage early 20th century passenger cars.  

Building Partnerships

One of Livingstone’s greatest assets is that she is a Calgarian; she knows the community and key players. Over the past year, one of her priorities has been to foster the Glenbow’s relationships and build new community partnerships. So, in addition to working with art gallery and museum groups like Alberta College of Art, Military Museums, Fort Calgary, University of Calgary and Contemporary Calgary (formerly the Art Gallery of Calgary, Triangle Gallery and Institute of Modern and Contemporary Art), she has also reached out to theatre and literary groups to let them know the “new Glenbow” is open and keen to work with them to bring its exhibitions and collection to life.  She is also working with the Calgary Stampede to create something celebrate our cowboy and western culture year round.

One recently example of a new partnership was with Calgary’s Verb Theatre who perform “Of Fighting Age” right in the gallery space containing the “Transformation: A.Y. Jackson & Otto Dix” exhibition (an exhibition of war art on loan from the National War Museums). For Livingstone and those who attended, the synergy of the visual and performance art was illuminating.

Building Community Support

The Glenbow’s signature fundraiser, SCHMANCY, has been recognized by Maclean’s magazine as one of the top five power galas in the country.  This year’s raucous evening of art and culture featured the likes of Bryan Adams, Rebecca Norton (Kung Fu Panties) and George Stroumboulopoulos. This is the new Glenbow – young, cheeky and schmancy. Oh yes, it also raised $280,000!

Exhibitions like “Made in Calgary: The ‘90s at Glenbow” by guest curator Nancy Tousley - with its 100 artworks by 55 artists - are critical to fostering the support of the local visual art community, something the Glenbow and most major Canadian art galleries struggle with. 

From June 7 to August 24, 2014, the Glenbow will feature Calgary’s young (under 40 years of age) whimsical glass art collective Bee Kingdom in an exhibition titled “Iconoclast In Glass.” To enhance visitors’ appreciation of glass art, the Bee Kingdom’s exhibition will be paired with an exhibition showcasing the Glenbow’s collection of historical and contemporary glass (which happens to be the largest in Canada).

In the past, the emerging and established local artists would often complain the Glenbow was ignoring their work.  This is no longer true!

The Bee Kingdom have exhibited their tiny, fun colourful creatures internationally and are now  at the Glenbow.

Last Word

For Livingstone, the duality of the being both art and history museum is something she wants to capitalize on, not complain about. With the largest, most diverse collection of art and artifacts in Western Canada (three times more art than the Vancouver Art Gallery), one of the largest collection of corporate head offices in North America in her backyard, as well as one of the strongest and most diverse cultural communities in Canada, she feels the Glenbow is well positioned to become the “new type of art museum” she envisions.

That is, a museum that tells the story of Calgary’s “sense of place: past, present and future” to Calgarians and visitors.  A museum that integrates historical and contemporary multi-discipline story-telling experiences which speak to everyone.  And, a museum that offer programs at noon hour, happy hour, weekday and weekends!

The fact Livingstone has no money to do any of the physical and programming changes she envisions doesn’t seem to faze her. She is confident the Glenbow will become Calgary’s the great museum (my words not hers) that Calgary deserves. It will be very interesting to watch the Glenbow’s transformation over the next few years. 

Donna Livingstone showing off her lassoing abilities.  A new kind of art museum, needs a new kind of President & CEO! (Photo credit: Calgary Herald)

Inglewood: Calgary's most unique community?

By Richard White, May 29, 2014 (an edited version of this blog appeared in the Calgary Herald's Neighbours section, May 29, 2014, titled "Cool Inglewood perfect for life, work and play).

Inglewood has the distinction of not only being Calgary’s oldest community (established in 1875), but also one of the most desirable urban communities in the City. And, while there are many fine historical buildings and relics from the past -including two old barns and an old brewery - still in the community, what makes its future particularly exciting are the many new private investments.

Two of the biggest additions to the community are George Brookman’s West Canadian Digital Imaging headquarter building at the east end of 9th (Atlantic) Avenue and Jim Hill’s Atlantic Art Block at the west end (the very modern 4-storey red brick building with the wavy roof).  These commercial anchors, combined with the existing shops, restaurants, cafes, clubs and pubs are critical to making Inglewood a perfect “live, work, play” community.


Inglewood offers a diversity of housing options - from early 20th century cottages and Bow River mansions, to new infill homes  and low-rise condos.  At the far east end of Inglewood along 17th Avenue, almost at Deerfoot Trail, lies the 15-acre SoBow (south of downtown) condo development by Calgary’s M2i Development.   While Bridgeland, Beltline and East Village tend to get all the attention SoBow offers arguably the best amenities and accessibility of any new urban village Calgary. 

In minutes, you can be on the Deerfoot, Blackfoot or Barlow Trails, or an easy cycle or walk into downtown if you live in SoBow.  From an amenities perspective, the Zoo, Pearce Estate Park, Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and the shops on 9th Avenue are basically in your backyard.

This large development has six phases and when complete, will consist of approximately 700 units, effectively creating a new “village” of 2,000+ people. (Click here for aerial views).

Heritage apartment blocks like this one make for great artists' live work spaces. 


The Atlantic Art Block not only offers office space, but at street level there are retail shops, a restaurant and the uber cool 15,000 square foot Esker Foundation Art Gallery in the penthouse. At street level, the building is home to the popular Gravity Café and Bite Groceteria - both have been an instant hit with foodies. It is a great example of a mixed-use building. 

West Canadian Digital Imaging 60,000 square foot building is a more tradition office only space. It employs not only his  250 workers, but another 90 Travel Alberta employees.  

Creating a “live, work, play” community is more than just about densification by building more condos and adding grocery stores, restaurants and shops.  It is just as critical that business owners like Brookman and Hill decide to locate their businesses in Calgary's established communities and not just downtown or suburban office parks.  Workers are critical to the survival of the shops, cafes and restaurants as they provide weekday customers, while the residential spaces fill the “customer” role evenings and weekends.

The Atlantic Art Block combines both contemporary architectural design (wave roof and glass walls at the corner) with more traditional brick three storey warehouse massing mid-block to create an exciting architectural statement as you enter Inglewood from the west. 

West Canadian Digital Building is a  more traditional modern interpretation of early 20th century warehouse architecture. 


Inglewood could be branded as Calgary’s music district as it is not only home to Recordland, Festival Hall, Ironwood and Blues Can, but also many of its old cottage houses and walk-up apartments are home to local musicians. 

If you haven’t been to Recordland, you should go. It is one of the largest privately owned record stores in Canada with over two million records.  The Festival Hall is the new year round home of the Calgary Folk Festival, as well as concert space for local and touring musicians. Ironwood and Blues Can offer live music seven days a week.  

Tim Williams at the Blues Can jamming with friends from around the world.

Recordland is just one of many local shops in Inglewood that makes it a fun place to flaneur.

Inglewood is a great place for window licking with lots of unique window installations. 

Rouge combines history and contemporary dining for a unique experience. 

Nerd is just one of many hipster hangouts in Inglewood. 

Nerd is just one of many hipster hangouts in Inglewood. 

Did You Know?

In 2004, EnRoute Magazine identified Inglewood as one of the Canada’s top 10 “coolest neighbourhoods.”  Over the past 10 years, it has gotten even cooler. 

The Inglewood Lawn Bowling Club (established in 1936) has become a tony place for Calgary hipsters.  The Club is so popular they have just completed a shiny new clubhouse.

In 2006, Inglewood’s Rouge restaurant placed 60th on the S. Pellegrino World’s 100 Best Restaurants list. Rouge, is located in the A.E.Cross house, built in 1891.  (Back Story: Cross was one of the “Big Four” investors in the Calgary Stampede).  The restaurant boasts its own vegetable garden that covers six city lots. How cool is that?

Every Saturday afternoon, Calgary’s own “cool cat” Tim Williams hosts a Blues Jam at the Blues Can in Inglewood.  Williams is the winner of the 2014 International Blues Competition in two categories: best solo and duo artist and best guitarist. 

Inglewood’s boundaries are the Bow River (north) to the CPR Yard (south) and the Bow River (east) to Elbow River (west).

Last Word

With everything from lawn bowling to Saturday jams; from the sounds of the Zoo animals to the sounds of trains and planes; from one of the world's best restaurants, to Canada's best used record store; Inglewood is definitely, Calgary’s most unique community. 

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Don't be too quick to judge

Yes, Inglewood does still have two barns. I believe the red barn serves as storage for Calgary's own Canadian Pickers.

This is the historic Stewart Livery constructed in 1909 at 806 14th St. SE. Livery stables were integral to the daily life of frontier cities. They served many functions - hire of horse and vehicles, sale of horses and vehicles as storage of hay, coal and wood.  

Union Square: Living on the park!

By Richard White, May 23, 2014 (an edited version of this blog appeared in the May edition of Condo Living's Magazine). 

The addition of new high-rise condos, new retail and the expansion of Hotel Arts retail and office space have resulted in a significant change over the past few years to First Street SW south of 12th Avenue.

For example, Union Square, the sleek monochromatic industrial grey 25-story condo sits on the southwest corner of First Street and 13th Avenue.  Living on a park, specifically Haultain Park (Memorial Park is just a block away), has its advantages.

One key one is that Union Square offers – and will always offer - unobstructed views of the mountains, river valley and downtown in an ever increasingly crowded Beltline skyline. 

Union Square condo (the first one) from 13th Avenue (next to Haultain School, park and playground) looking east from Memorial Park.  

Haultain Park playing field.  There are also tennis courts and a community garden. 

The historic Haultain School which is now the headquarters of the Calgary Parks Foundation.

Community Collaboration 

The story of this condo is intriguing on many levels.  From a design perspective, it is classic, podium point tower, i.e. the first two floors cover the entire site while the upper 23 floors of condos are narrower, to create the thin tower that reaches up to the sky.  The tower design changes subtly from bottom to the penthouse; this is not a flashy “look at me” building with walls intersecting at weird angles and bright colours.  Rather, it is a timeless - some might say conservative - design that fits well in scale with the two other new highrise condos on First Street SW – Chocolate and Colours.

The project proceeded only after intense discussions and collaboration between the architects (BKDI), the developers (Apex and Western Securities), the City of Calgary (Planning and Parks) and the community.  The result is a façade on the First Street side, which is red brick at street level to integrate with the historic brick Underwood Block into the street level retail.  However, on the west side facing Haultain Park there are sandstone townhomes which mirror the character of the historic Haultain School built in 1894. The goal was to ensure that the building didn’t turn its back on the park with a large blank wall.  The townhomes, with their patios looking directly into the park, make for a very attractive transition from small scale to high-rise in a short space.

The backstory of Union Square gets even more complex. The original plan called for two towers, which required more parking than, could be built under the buildings. So, a deal was stuck to extend the parkade under the park.  To do so, the developer made a one-time payment of $250,000 to the City for park improvements. In addition, the condo association also pays an annual rental free to the city for the parkade under the park. Union Square really puts the PARK in parkade. As a result, there is a well-used playing field and children’s playground (you would be surprise how busy the playground is) in Haultain Park.

Union Square town homes with patios facing the park.

The popular Haultain playground.  Downtown Calgary is more family friendly than most people perceived!

Second Tower?

The first Union Square tower was completed in 2009. However the second tower was put on hold after the condo market crash in 2008.  Now that demand for Beltline condos continues to be strong, rumour has it that plans are being finalized to complete the second tower which would add to the vitality of First Street SW south of the tracks, an area evolving into an attractive, active pedestrian zone.

Unlike many new condos Union Square doesn’t have on-site amenities like a fitness room, pool, lounge or library.  It was determined that urban living is not about hibernating in one’s condo, but rather getting out and using the abundant amenities that already exist in the community – like the cafes, restaurants, yoga and workout studios, as well as the Memorial Park Library - that surround it.

An enlightened philosophy that will enhance community vitality for decades to come. 

The fountains at Memorial Park with Union Square in the distance (one block away). 

First Street SW is an important pedestrian link between the Beltline and Downtown and from the Elbow River to the Bow River.  Every year more shops, restaurants and clubs are being added to what is already a diverse and attractive streetscape.


Last Word

There are currently over 13,000 condo and apartment units under construction, approved or in the planning stages in the eight communities next to Calgary's downtown core (central business district).  Calgary's City Centre (all of the communities within 5 km of downtown) is one of the most attractive and vibrant urban places in North America today.

If you like this blog, you might like:

Beltline: One of North America's best hipster communiites

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Postcards: Musical Instrument Museum (Phoenix)

By Richard White, May 6, 2014

I had no idea the world’s largest museum of musical instruments (15,000 instruments from over 200 countries) was located in Phoenix when we arrived there.  It was only by chance that I found a mention of it while surfing the net.  It looked interesting so I took a chance and after a "too short" visit I can safely say it is very impressive. 

What is just as impressive though is that Robert J. Ulrich, former CEO and Chairman of Target Corporation, was able to accomplish the feat of building this world-class museum in just five years from its inception. 

The story goes (according to one of the museum’s gallery educators) that Ulrich was in Europe in 2005 looking to purchase some major artworks when he got the idea to create a major new museum focusing on musical instruments.  Using his Target store opening experience, he set a very ambitious goal of having the museum open in five years.  This is unheard of in museum circles where even planning and fundraising for a museum expansion or renovation can take decades, let alone one that had no land, no collection and no staff.

Ulrich immediately hired Rich Varda (who oversees Target’s team of store designers) as the main architect to create the building and exhibition displays.  He also hired Bille R. DeWalt, a cultural anthropologist (University of Pittsburgh) as the founding president and director to guide the development. 

True to his word, the Musical Instrument Museum opened five years later, in April 2010. The $250 million dollar museum has five huge galleries devoted to Africa and Middle East, Asia and Oceania, Europe, Latin America and Caribbean, and the United States and Canada. There are almost 300 vignettes, each with historical instruments from the country, related artifacts and a short video about the people and the instruments.

With the videos using the latest Wi-Fi technology, you don’t have to press any buttons. As soon as you get near the videos, the headphones you are provided with pick up the sound and all you need to do is listen. The museum also has a theatre for concerts, a conservation lab and an “experience gallery” where visitors can play the instruments.  You could easily spend all day there. They even have a two-day pass to allow you to come back if you haven’t given yourself enough time to digest everything in one day.

My only complaint is the museum is located at the edge of the city, making it accessible only by car. It’s unfortunate it wasn’t designed as an anchor for a new urban village or perhaps closer to some of the other Phoenix museums to create a museum district.

The guitar exhibition in the lobby.

Lyre guitar, France, c. 1815. I loved the mask, folk-art quality of this guitar

Harp guitar, Germany, 1994 (replica of 1920 harp-guitar by W.J.Dyer % Bros.)

The integration of the local costumes relating to the music and culture was impressive.

A framed collection of harmonicas.

The trumpet call harmonica was probably my favourite piece. 

The evolution of the bag pipes.

Binzasara (rattle), 20th century, wood and rope

One of the five exhibition gallery spaces each the size of a Target store.

Look from the second floor galleries to the lobby below.


The Musical Instrument Museum is impressive not only as a music museum, but also as an art museum and a cultural history museum.  It is definitely a must see if you are in Phoenix.  

When you think of Phoenix you don't think of it as a cultural mecca.  However after spending six days in the Phoenix and area my image of the city changed significantly because of the impressive museums we visited. And we only visited a few.

Here is quick list Phoenix museums: 

  • Phoenix Museums
  • Phoenix Art Museum
  • The Heard Museum
  • Arizona State University Art Museum
  • Arizona State University Museum of Anthropology
  • Arizona Science Centre
  • Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
  • Taliesin West (Frank Lloyd Wright's School of Architecture)
  • Desert Botanical Garden  

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Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West: A Phoenix Must See

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Do we really need all of this public art?

By Richard White, May 16, 2014

It hurts me to say this, but “do we really need all of this public art?” Over the past year, I have visited dozens of cities making a point to always seek out the public art wherever we go.  I have seen literally hundreds of public artworks, big and small, abstract and representational, local and international artists.  I have served on a jury for selecting a public artwork for a Calgary LRT station and I have written several blogs and columns on the pros and cons of public art.

In all of my travels (dozens of cities across North America) I have only experienced four public artworks that I feel have captured the public’s imagination enough to make them stop, look and interact with the art.  Sadly, most public art within a few months quickly becomes just a part of urban landscape.  More often than not, public art doesn’t really add to the urban experience by creating a unique sense of place or a memorable experience.   

 While I love art, I appreciate that I am in the minority; that for many, there is not much public appeal in public art that is being installed around out city (and other cities).  It is therefore not surprising that many Calgarians as well as many in other cities, question the value of spending tax dollars on art that adds little value to their life.

Found this public public art piece in downtown Portland the "Bike Capital of America." What do you think? Does Calgary need more bike art? More horses? You can't please everyone. 

Fun & Interactive 

Of the four pieces of public art that did engage the public, two were in Chicago’s Millennium Park – Crown Fountain by Jaume Plensa and Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor. These were by far the most successful with hundreds of people actively engaged by their intuitive playfulness.   

In Vancouver, “A-maze-ing Laughter” by artist Yue Minjun in a small pocket park (Morton Park) next to English Bay beach seems to always have people young and old wandering around the 14 (twice life size) bronze cherub-like, laughing figures.  The park is full of laughter and smiles, something urban spaces need more of.

The fourth piece is Jeff de Boer’s “When Aviation was Young” at the Calgary Airport West Jet waiting area. This two-piece, circus-looking sculpture with toy airplanes that spin around when you turn the large old-style key is a huge hit with young children waiting to board a plane.  Like most successful public art, it is fun, and encourages public interaction.

In Calgary’s downtown the two pieces I see the public most often stop, take pictures and interact with are “The Famous Five” on Olympic Plaza and “Conversation” on Stephen Avenue Walk.  Interesting to note that they are both figurative, pedestrian scale and located in an active public space.  Downtown Calgary boasts over 100 public artworks, but none of them are a “must see” attractions (at best they area a “nice to see” and get a walk-by glance).

For all the hoopla over Jaume Plensa’s “Wonderland” (big white head) when it was first installed on the plaza in front of the Bow Tower, today it sits alone attracting only a few visitors a day.  

This is not just a Calgary dilemma. Even in Chicago, major public artworks by the likes of Picasso, Calder and Miro (three of the 20th century’s most respected artists) situated on office plazas just a few blocks from Millennium Park, are devoid of any spectators outside of office hours.

Anish Kapoor's "Cloud Gate" is so popular with the public that it has a nickname - THE BEAN! When the public gives an artwork a nickname you know they like it!

"Root Like a Liquid Flung Over the Plaza" by Acconci Studio graces the corner in front of the Memphis Performing Arts Center.  It has many of the qualities of Kapoor's "Cloud Gate," it is fun and there are interesting reflections and places to sit, yet it attracts no crowds.  

Juame Plensa's "Crown Fountain" is popular day and night. It is a wonderful place to linger.  It attracts thousands of people most days spring, summer and fall.  

Jaume Plensa's "Wonderland" located on an office plaza in downtown Calgary attracts only a few visitors a day. 

Come on admit it, even this photo of "A-maze-ing Laughter" brings a smile to your face.

Calder's "Flamingo" was unveiled in 1974.  It is fun, colourful and playful piece, but it doesn't invite any interaction. Over the years it has become less and less a magnet for tourist and locals to visit.  

William McElcheran's "Conversation" on Stephen Avenue Walk is very popular with the public.  Often people will place a coffee cup in their hand or add a scarf to one of the figures.  The public loves to have their picture taken with the two businessmen. 

Barbara Paterson's "Famous Five" sculpture in Calgary's Olympic Plaza invites the public to come and sit with them, have your picture taken and some even like to leave a tip.

Big Names / Big Deal 

Commissioning a big name artist clearly doesn’t guarantee the artwork will be successful in capturing the public’s imagination. 

Claus Oldenburg’s “Big Sweep” sculpture in front of the Denver Art Museum or “Roof Like a Liquid Flung Over the Plaza” by the Acconci Studio on the plaza of the Memphis Performing Arts Centre are both major pieces by established artists, yet they have done nothing to animate the space around them. 

Perhaps we need to thing differently about commissioning public art.  Nashville has a program, which commissions local artists to create bike racks that serve a dual purpose. Some are very clever and some I think are tacky, but at $10,000 each you can afford to have a few duds. 

In the early ‘90s the Calgary Downtown Association initiated the “Benches as sculpture” project, commissioning local arts to create sculptures that also serve as benches. The artwork (benches) have become a valued addition to the downtown landscape, so much so that the Provincial judges lobbied to make sure the “Buffalos” were returned to the courthouse plaza after it was renovated to add a parking lot underneath.

Claus Oldenburg and Coosjevan Bruggen's "Big Sweep" sits outside the entrance to the Denver Art Museum. It is fun, but static, and there is signage next to it with several rules that restrict how you can interact with it. 

This piece sits outside the Tucson Public Library in their Cultural District.  I couldn't find information on the artist or the title.  We passed this piece several times and never saw anyone stopping to look at it. 

The City of Calgary allows office developers to build taller buildings in return for pubic art on their plazas like this one. The developers get more space to rent and in theory the public gets a better quality urban space to enjoy. In reality this space on the southwest plaza at Bankers Hall is enjoyed by only by a few smokers a day. 

Nashville's fun bike racks as art program adds some whimsy to this streetscape. 

Lessons Learned

It hurts me to say this, but Calgary is not being well served by the millions of dollars we have invested in public art, both publicly and privately.  In my opinion, what would be best is if we pool all of the available public art money (bonus density and 1% for public art) and create dedicated art parks.  I am thinking we could have sites in each quadrant and perhaps a couple in the greater downtown that are designated for new artworks. When a new project is approved the public art contribution would be designated to the closest art park. 

The current, “democratic” approach of placing public art of all shapes, sizes and subject matter randomly throughout the city (parks, LRT stations, bridges, plazas) simply fragments and isolates the public art experience.  What was supposed to be a program to humanize and make the urban environment more interesting and attractive, has only served to outrage many and create rifts in our community.

The time has come for Calgary and most cities to rethink their public art policy.

If you like this blog, you might like: 

The Famous Five at Olympic Plaza 

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Vegas' Crazy Container Park

By Richard White, May 15, 2014

What would you do if you had a spare $350 million? In 2008, after selling Zappos, an online shoe and clothing site, to Amazon for $1.2 billion, Tony Hsieh (Zappos’ CEO) decided to undertake his own urban renewal project. He bought up land in Las Vegas’ east end and created Container Park.

Container Park is perhaps the most exciting and unique urban development project I have ever seen.  Though currently it is just one entire block (at the east end of Freemont Street), there is lots of room to expand.  Using 40+ old shipping containers, some stacked on top of one another, Hsieh effectively transformed the once - empty block into an attractive, animated urban village.

Half of the block is a vibrant entertainment center with boutiques, restaurants, lounges, a huge children playground with its three-story tree house (young adults also love the playground at night). There is also an outdoor concert venue for the likes of Sheryl Crow (who we missed by a few days) and indie bands. 

Container Park, in sharp contrast to the adjacent Old Vegas’ Freemont Experience and the Strip is focused on being an incubator for small-scale start-ups in the fashion, art, food and music industries rather than mega international players. To date, over 50 small businesses have joined the party so to speak.

The other half of the block is a quiet learning campus with several containers positioned to create a campus (kind of like the old portable classrooms of the ‘60s). Here, the Container Park community, as well as others meet and share ideas to help germinate new ideas or expand existing ones.

Hsieh’s vision is to “create the shipping container capital of the world, while at the same time becoming the most community-focused large city in the world.”  Judging by the number of people hanging out when we visited (both day and night), he is well on his way in turning his vision into reality.

It is amazing what Hsieh has been able to accomplish in a few years, given the decades it has taken Calgary to get the East Village revitalization off the ground. Container Park opened in the Fall 2013 and is currently the toast of the town. However, the real test of success is best determined in 5 or 10 years when the “lust of the new” has worn off.

At night the entrance to Container Park is very dramatic with a fire breathing grass hopper that is like something out of Burning Man. 

Once inside it is a place to dine, have a drink and hang out with friends.  It is like a patio or back deck party. 

NEOS is a fun playground game that everyone seemed to enjoy. 

During the day it was the kids enjoying NEOS with the adults watching on. 

The three storey tree house was popular during the day.  Who would have thought of a playground as the central element of an urban village. BRILLIANT! 

The three storey tree house was popular during the day.  Who would have thought of a playground as the central element of an urban village. BRILLIANT! 

Container Park by day with downtown Las Vegas in the background.

Container Park is like one large patio, with wonderful soft seating.  I took this picture quick as one group left and another was about to grab it. 

The learning campus is quiet more contemplative place. I took this just after a group had finished some sort of meeting workshop. 


As a Calgarian I am totally jealous of Vegas' Container Park.  It would be a great way develop some parking lots or vacant sites along a major transit route with retail, residential or office buildings.  Perhaps it could be the model for a mixed-use development of the land around an LRT station.   

I encourage everyone to check out Container Park when you are next in Vegas!


I wonder if the dogs are intimidated by this fire hydrant. This is actually a private dog park, - you have to be a Hydrant Club member to access it.  Dog owners pay a subscription fee for obedience training, doggie day care and access to this grass oasis in a sea of gravel parking lots. 

The importance of entrepreneurship in city building!

By Richard White, May 12, 2014 (an edited version of the blog appeared in the Calgary Herald's New Condos section on May11, 2014, titled "Civic innovation a breath of fresh air)

Recently, a 6-week, 8,907 km road trip took me to many cities (big and small) including Salt Lake City, St. George, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Colorado Springs, Denver, Billings, Bozeman and Helena.  Most of the time was spent flaneuring downtown streets, plazas, parks and alleys looking for new ideas on urban living.  Three projects stand out for their entrepreneurship and relevance to Calgary’s contemporary urban culture.

Container Park, Las Vegas

What would you do if you had a spare $350 million? In 2008, after selling Zappos, an online shoe and clothing site, to Amazon for $1.2 billion, Tony Hsieh (Zappos’ CEO) decided to undertake his own urban renewal project. He bought up land in Las Vegas’ east end and created Container Park.

Container Park is perhaps the most exciting and unique urban development project I have ever seen.  Though currently it is one entire block (at the east end of Freemont Street), there is lots of room to expand.  Using 40+ old shipping containers, some stacked on top of one another, Hsieh effectively transformed the once - empty block into an attractive, animated urban village.

Half of the block is a vibrant entertainment center with boutiques, restaurants, lounges, a huge children playground with its three-story tree house (young adults also love the playground at night). There is also an outdoor concert venue for the likes of Sheryl Crow (who we missed by a few days) and indie bands. 

Container Park, in sharp contrast to the adjacent Old Vegas’ Freemont Experience and the Strip is focused on being an incubator for small-scale start-ups in the fashion, art, food and music industries rather than mega international players. To date, over 50 small businesses have joined the party so to speak.

The other half of the block is a quiet learning campus with several containers positioned to create a campus (kind of like the old portable classrooms of the ‘60s). Here, the Container Park community, as well as others meet and share ideas to help germinate new ideas or expand existing ones.

Hsieh’s vision is to “create the shipping container capital of the world, while at the same time becoming the most community-focused large city in the world.”  Judging by the number of people hanging out when we visited (both day and night), he is well on his way in turning his vision into reality.

It is amazing what Hsieh has been able to accomplish in a few years, given the decades it has taken Calgary to get the East Village revitalization off the ground. Container Park opened in the Fall 2013 and is currently the toast of the town. However, the real test of success is best determined in 5 or 10 years when the “lust of the new” has worn off.

Container Park by day is full of families and hipsters.  It is a happy place!

At night Container Park the children are gone, but the fun continues.

Adults using the children's playground. at night.

Ivywild School, Colorado Springs

Another example of good old American entrepreneurial spirit is evident at the Ivywild School in Colorado Springs (COS), Colorado. Two years after this 1916 yellow brick, elementary school closed in 2009, two neighbouring businessmen - Joe Coleman (Blue Star restaurant) and Mike Bristol (Bristol Brewing Co.) negotiated the purchase of the school and converted it into a mixed-use community hub.

In the spring of 2013, the “school” reopened as a bakery, cocktail lounge, coffee house, charcuterie, bike shop, art school and of course brew pub.  In addition, it hosts numerous events and a farmers’ market.  We visited twice and it is clear that it has definitely become a hub for hipsters.  I understand the funding for the renovations was totally the responsibility of the individual tenants.  The washrooms and hallways have been left untouched, so there is still an elementary school atmosphere about the space. We loved the children’s murals on the walls and the old water fountains.

Its positive impact on the inner city community of Ivywild is already being felt.  Millibo Art Theatre has bought and renovated an old church across the street, converting it into a performance space and theatre school. We attended their Six Women Play Festival, which proved to be both entertaining and thought provoking for the full house audience.

I couldn’t help but compare this renovation to Calgary’s King Edward School repurposing project, the latter which has taken many, many years and $31 million dollars of public funding to make happen.  Ah, the power of private funding! I also couldn’t help but think maybe a brew pub would make a great addition to the King Edward School.

Yet, perhaps a better comparison would be with the Simmons building in East Village with its similar indie foodie focus.  It will be interesting to see how it is received when it finally opens in the spring of 2015.

The Boys washroom still has all the charm of elementary school. 

It wouldn't be a hipster hang-out without a bike shop.

The thought behind the Iveywild School project.

 Musical Instrument Museum, Phoenix

I had no idea that the world’s largest museum of musical instruments (15,000 instruments from over 200 countries) was located in Phoenix.  What is most impressive though is that Robert J. Ulrich, former CEO and Chairman of Target Corporation, was able to accomplish the feat of building this world-class museum in just five years from its inception. 

The story goes (according to one of the museum’s gallery educators) that Ulrich was in Europe looking to purchase some major artworks when he got the idea to create a major new museum focusing on musical instruments.  Using his Target store opening experience, he set a very ambitious goal of having the museum open in five years.  This is unheard of in museum circles where even planning and fundraising for a museum expansion or renovation can take decades, let alone one that had no land, no collection and no staff.

Ulrich immediately hired Rich Varda (who oversees Target’s team of store designers) as the main architect to create the building and exhibition displays.  He also hired Bille R. DeWalt, a cultural anthropologist (University of Pittsburgh) as the founding president and director to guide the development. 

True to his word, the museum did open five years later, in April 2010. The $250 million dollar museum has five huge galleries devoted to Africa and Middle East, Asia and Oceania, Europe, Latin America and Caribbean, and the United States and Canada. There are almost 300 vignettes, each with historical instruments from the country, related artifacts and a short video about the people and the instruments.

With the videos using the latest Wi-Fi technology, you don’t have to press any buttons. As soon as you get near the videos, the headphones you are provided with pick up the sound and all you need to do is listen. The museum also has a theatre for concerts, a conservation lab and an “experience gallery” where visitors can play the instruments.  You could easily spend all day there. They even have a two-day pass to allow you to come back if you haven’t given yourself enough time to digest everything in one day.

My only complaint is the museum is located at the edge of the city, making it accessible only by car. It’s unfortunate it wasn’t designed as an anchor for a new urban village.

The five gallery space are like five Target stores!

Some of the instruments are very simple like this Grater.

The conservation lab.

Last Word

While Calgary takes pride in its ambitious, entrepreneurial and philanthropic spirit, I can’t help but wonder why the Glenbow struggles to survive, why the National Music Centre still isn’t fully funded and why are we still talking about a contemporary public art gallery 50 years after the idea was first debated. Why do things take so long in Calgary?

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King Edward Village?

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Calgary's newest urban village


Kudos to CMLC for making a tough decision

By Richard White, May 8 2014

I think everyone I know was surprised to learn that Calgary Municipal Land Corporation’s (CMLC) is closing the public washrooms on Riverwalk in East Village.  Since its inception in 2007, CMLC has done an amazing job of developing and implementing an ambitious vision and master plan for the once-troubled and downtrodden East Village community.  

Throughout the East Village redevelopment, CMLC has been very transparent in the process, hosting numerous open houses before making any key decisions.   It truly has been a collaborative and cooperative community process.  While not everyone will agree with every decision (you can’t make everyone happy), there was always lots of public consultation as part of the any decision-making.

In this case, CMLC engaged a group of experts last summer to assess the perception of safety across in East Village, which included three community meetings. The recent changes in Riverwalk programming i.e. close the washroom except for events and removal of a few lounge chairs was based on dialogue with the community, police and crime prevention experts.

As a founding Board Member of the Calgary Homeless Foundation, Executive Director of the Calgary Downtown Association, an International Downtown Association Board member and now as the community strategist at Ground3 architecture, I am passionate about creating public spaces that are safe and attractive for people of all ages and backgrounds. 

This is not a homeless issue

I have been very impressed by the work of CMCL in taking risks and being ambitious with the design and programming of Riverwalk incorporating inclusivity at all times. While some see this as an affront to the homeless population and clients of the nearby Calgary Drop-In Centre, I believe their clients also want and deserve a clean and safe Riverwalk. I don’t believe this is a decision to penalize the homeless, but rather a proactive decision to deal with criminal activities taking place in the washrooms. I have a strong hunch there is “more to the story” behind why the decisions were made - I don’t think we need to know the all the ugly details. 

The decision to close the washrooms (except when an event is happening) and the replacement of the few permanent lounge chairs (there are still hundreds of places to sit along the river and pathway) after four years was a tough one for CMLC to make.  

This is one of public washrooms that have been closed except for event use.  

Riverwalk is well used by Calgarians of all ages and for a variety of activities.  Note there are lots of places to seat, the few lounge chairs that have been removed will not be missed. 

Zero Tolerance 

I am confident the Police and Bylaw Officers can and will deal with it the criminal and conduct issues in East Village. The City of Calgary has a Public Behaviour Bylaw that addresses some of the public space issues we have faced in the past.

The following are prohibited in public places:

  • Fighting
  • Defecating and urinating
  • Spitting
  • Loitering that obstructs other people
  •  Standing or placing one’s feet on tables, benches, planters or sculptures
  • Carrying a visible knife

I would like to add “loud swearing” to the list.  I know this was an issue on Stephen Avenue and Olympic Plaza in the past. Some individuals would persistently shout and swear at each other using language that would intimidate everyone within earshot (including me and I think I am very tolerant).  It was a way of a few taking ownership of a public space and keeping others away by making them feel so uncomfortable they would walk away and not return. These undesirable behaviors should not be tolerated. 

I believe a “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to violent, destructive and aggressive conduct in public spaces. No one should be made to feel uncomfortable in a public space.  Everyone needs to be held up to the same community conduct standards - rich and poor, young and old.  

My recommendation

Police and Bylaw officers should have a “zero tolerance” policy along Riverwalk this summer to ensure it is a safe place for ALL Calgarians. Enhanced policing and bylaw enforcement has worked before to make problem areas safer and I don’t see why it can’t work again.

I have no problem if CMLC wants to close the washrooms and remove a few permanent lounge chairs.  But I would hope that once the intervention has been complete they might experiment with opening the washrooms seven days a week from 9 am to 9 pm from May to September and 10 am to 3 pm from October to April. I see no need for them to be open 24-hours a day.

The addition of new condos, office buildings, restaurants, cafes, a library and museum will add lots more pedestrian traffic to East Village in the next few years. More people will make the area safer and more attractive for everyone. 

Last Word

This situation is very unfortunate, happening just as new condos are rising out of the ground, the National Music Centre is under construction and the new Library visioning is happening. The good news is the addition of more people living, working and playing in East Village over the next few years will make it safer for everyone (including the homeless) as it will mean more eyes on the streets and public spaces - something criminals shy away from.  People forget there was a time when Eau Claire was a prostitute stroll – look at it today.

Creating great urban villages is not just about managing big construction projects. It is also about getting the small operational things right.  Creating good public spaces requires ongoing management and experimentation in response to new issues and opportunities.

I believe a city is defined by the attractiveness of its public spaces as gathering places for passive activities – think Central Park in New York or Millennium Park in Chicago. Riverwalk is an award-winning public space that has attracted international attention as one of the best designed public spaces of the 21st century.

We must do all we can to make Riverwalk and all of Calgary’s parks and public spaces safe and and inviting for ALL Calgarians. I say kudos to CMLC for making a tough decision.

Riverwalk has been designed so special events can take place and yet others can enjoy a passive quiet experience near by. 

Here are the few lounge chairs that have been removed. While they are nice, they are not essential. 

This is Chicago's Millennium Park. Great public spaces have areas where people love to gather, linger, relax and chill-out.  

Helena: A Helluva Downtown

By Richard White, May 6, 2014

We have been visiting Helena, Montana's capital city for over 20 years and we never get tired of it.  While some small cities (Helena's population is 29,000) boast about their historical downtowns and then disappoint, Helena's historic downtown is full of interesting shops, architecture and ghost signs. It is definitely worth adding to your 2014 road trip itinerary.  

As a teaser, here are some of our favourite things to see and do.

Barnes Jewelry (357 N. Last Chance Gulch)

Barnes Jewelry is almost more a museum than a retail store.  Yes, they have jewelry and lots and lots of clocks and watches, but what really makes it an enticing place to visit are the owners - Marvin Hunt and Stacy Henry. They are always eager to chat with you about the stories behind the historic clocks they have collected.  Don't be surprised if there is a school tour happening when you visit, as young children love to learn about how old timepieces worked and the owners revel in sharing the history of their artifacts. 

Barnes also has one of the best store window displays we have ever encountered.  While they may not be as big and flashy as the Christmas windows at Macy's in New York, they have a fun small town authenticity about them that we love. 

Clocks of all sizes and shapes decorate almost every available space at Barnes Jewelry.

Window artists Roberta (Bobby) Jones-Wallace and Pattie Lundin are responsible for the wonderful window narrative vignettes. What started out as an experiment a few years ago has become a tradition with the new window exhibitions changed seasonally. Bobby and Pattie love to spark your inner-child when passing by. Kids love the windows of course. 

This would make a good addition to my vintage barware collection.

The Sleepy Rooster (420 N. Last Chance Gulch)

Sleepy Rooster is a vintage retail store with a large warehouse at the back. The front is full of home accessories and artifacts all carefully curated into charming vignettes.  We love scrounging around in the warehouse space looking for hidden treasures. 

The store is full of eclectic and eccentric offbeat items and we have the photos to prove it. Canadian Pickers (Sheldon and Scott) and American Pickers (Frank and Mike) would love this place.  The prices are fair and you don't have to travel the continent to find them. 

Did we say eccentric?

Did we say eclectic?

Here's a just a sample of some of the many treasures waiting to be taken home from the warehouse space.

A view of the Sleepy Rooster's large showroom.

Aunt Bonnie's Books (419 N. Last Chance Gulch)

Great streets always have a great bookstore - Helena has Aunt Bonnie's.  Like all good used bookstores, it is packed floor to ceiling with books of all genres. The thrill is in the hunt!  

On our recent visit, I was looking for what I thought would be a hard-to-find book "Wisdom Sits In Places," an academic book by Keith H. Basso published in 1996 by the University of New Mexico Press. When I asked if they might have it, I was directed to places where it might be if they had it, with the caveat "I doubt we have it! " After a bit of searching, there it was at the end of the middle shelf. I was shocked and so was the woman who helped me (not sure if it was Aunt Bonnie or not - forgot to ask).  

FYI - the store has a "no cell phone" policy which makes for a refreshing tranquility. 

The store front's window is very welcoming.

The store front's window is very welcoming.

I wasn't joking when I said the place is full of books. 

The Architecture & Art

Founded in 1864, Helena is the capital of Montana and as such, has a rich architectural history. While the state capitol building is impressive, the signature downtown buildings are two churches - one old, one new.  The main downtown street is named Last Chance Gulch in reference to the winding path of the original gulch (i.e. a valley created by water erosion) that the downtown was built around. 

There are many late 19th and early 20th century buildings in downtown, as well as contemporary new icons. 

The Saint Helena Cathedral, built in 1908. is an impressive sight as it overlooks the downtown. It is a beautiful and sacred place to explore.

Just down the hill from the St. Helena Cathedral is a large contemporary church that employs modern materials and design elements to make its modernist statement.

ExplorationWorks is Helena's hands-on interactive science centre for all ages.  It is part of a new urban village just north of downtown.  Here you will find a carousel, shops, cinemas, restaurants, condos, hotel and offices all with a modern design, yet with synergies to the historic downtown. 

Helena is proud of its vibrant arts scene that includes one of the oldest art walk programs in the country, the Holter Museum of Art, Archie Bray Foundation for Ceramic Arts, numerous commercial art galleries and a diverse performing arts community. 

Parrot Confectionary (42 N. Last Chance Gulch)

Parrot Confectionary was founded in 1922 and has become a Helena landmark.  This family-owned candy/soda/diner offers 130 different types of candies, including hand-made chocolates made on-site. They are also famous for their secret chili recipe, hand-made ice cream shakes and caramel cashew sundaes.  We had one of the best hot coco drinks ever on a cool autumn day.   

Like Barnes Jewelry, this place is like a museum with artifacts everywhere.

Drop in some coins and listen to some old time music while enjoying a shake. 

Just one of hundreds of tantelizing treats.  

Just one of hundreds of tantelizing treats. 

Where to Stay and Eat?

Helena offers all of the typical roadside chain hotels, but our favourite is the Red Lion Colonial Hotel that is literally just minutes off the highway and minutes from downtown, the Capitol Building district and other shopping.  

We love it unique, grand curved colonial stairway in the lobby. It is a pleasant surprise in the middle of the mountains. 

While the Red Lion has a nice restaurant, another favourite option of ours is Bullman's Woodfired Pizza (1130 Helena Ave, in the triangle created by Helena, Montana and Boulder Streets). This great family dining spot, doesn't look like much but the pizza and salads are very good. For example, the Bitterroot (all the pizza names have a link to the Montana's geography) has pistachios, red onion, rosemary, mozzarella cheese, olive oil and sea salt.  Wine selection here is very easy - red or white - but they do have some nice craft beers by the bottle. 

Red Lion Colonial Hotel's white grand staircase (28 steps) is charming and inviting. A great photo opportunity.

Red Lion Colonial Hotel's white grand staircase (28 steps) is charming and inviting. A great photo opportunity.

Spruce Cliff: A hidden gem

An edited version of this blog appeared in the Calgary Herald's Neighbours on March 27, 2014. 

By Richard White, May 3, 2014

As an avid off-the-beaten path shopper, I recently discovered the community of Spruce Cliff when I went there to check out Louche Milieu, a mid century modern shop located in the Spruce Cliff Shopping Centre.   The “shopping centre” name is a bit deceiving as it is just a single row of six or seven small retail shops. But sometimes you find the most interesting things in small out-of-the-way places. 

Louche Milieu was definitely worth the trip. It was full of vintage furniture and home accessories, all in great shape and nicely displayed.  We also enjoyed a coffee and homemade muffin at the cute Little Monday café that had just opened.   There was something refreshing and authentic to this vintage ‘50s shopping centre with its locally owned and operated shops, something missing from the big box franchised power centres.

If you blink, you would miss Spruce Cliff. Driving along Bow Trail just west of the Shaganappi Golf course, it parallels Bow Trail for only five blocks – 33rd to 38th St SW.  Its boundaries are Bow Trail on the south, Bow River on the north, 38th street to the west and Shaganappi Golf Course on the east.  Though the land was annexed by the city of Calgary in 1910, it wasn’t developed until the ‘50s.

What intrigued me as I entered the community along Spruce Drive SW, was the dichotomy of the many small mid 20th century apartment complexes with the large 21st century Westgate Park and Copperwood condo projects. It was as if two worlds were colliding.  Coincidently, a few days later I was reading Robert M. Stamp’s book “Suburban Modern” where he documents postwar dreams in Calgary and there is a section on the “Spruce Cliff Apartments.”  They were a $7 million, social-housing project designed by Rule, Wynn & Rule that are “sensitively distributed across the site, establishing a park-like setting (32 buildings over a 50-acre site) and offering remarkable views of the city skyline.” 

Driving around the community there was a conspicuous absence of single-family homes.  Indeed, Spruce Cliff’s housing mix is different from most Calgary communities with 65% of its housing stock being apartments, (city average 27%) and only 42% of the homes are owner-occupied (city average 73%).  A check of the community’s demographics and you find Spruce Cliff is a haven for young single Calgarians - 37% of the population are 25 to 34 year of age and 71% live alone.

It is not surprising Spruce Cliff is attractive to young professionals (31% have a university degree vs city average of 25%) given you can walk/cycle to downtown or catch the LRT train at the nearby Westbrook Station.  In addition, there are few places in Calgary where you can walk to a golf course for a round of golf in the summer or some cross-country skiing in the winter. You also have easy access to Edworthy Park and the Douglas Fir Trail for hiking and more biking.  

Spruce Cliff has been home to the Wildflower Arts Centre for over 30 years, offering classes to everyone from preschoolers to seniors.  Recently they offered a “Famous Artist” series of lectures covering everything from the Group of Seven to Matisse.  In addition there are pottery, painting and drawing classes, making it a fun place to discover your inner artist.

Spruce Cliff is also home to Calgary’s annual Greek Festival at the Hellenic Community Centre; this year’s festival happens from June 20 to 24.  Calgary’s Hellenic Orthodox Community was formed in 1957 and the St. Demetrious Greek Orthodox Church was built two years later. It has since been joined by the St. Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Church and the Church of Shepard, creating a church campus in the middle of the community.  If you have always wanted to go to Greece but haven’t yet made it, head to Spruce Cliff for this year’s festival.  

Like many of Calgary’s inner city communities, Spruce Cliff is about to be transformed from a low-density ‘50s residential community into a early 21st century mixed-use community.  The most obvious evidence of this change is Intergulf-Cidex’s three high-rise towers right on Bow Trail at Spruce Dr. SW.  Westgate Park added not only 480 high-end condos, but started to create the link between Spruce Cliff and the planned Westbrook LRT Station transit-oriented urban village.

Similarly, the new Copperwood condos along Hemlock Crescent added 517 units in several buildings, each with spectacular views of downtown, Bow River valley and the mountains.  These two developments alone have attracted over 1,500 affluent new young professionals and empty nesters to Spruce Cliff, who no doubt will germinate other new developments like Louche Milieu and Little Monday café.   

Spruce Cliff is yet another example of how Calgary’s inner city communities are successfully being transformed into active, attractive, diverse and denser 21st century neighbourhoods. 

St. Demetrious Greek Orthodox Church

Little Monday Cafe

Louche Milieu

Spruce Cliff Shopping Centre

Westgate condos

Wildflower Arts Centre

Shaganappi Golf Course 

Aspen Woods: Home to Calgary's "nouveau riche!"

Note: An edited version of this blog was published in the Calgary Herald's Neighbours on April 22nd, 2014.

By Richard White, May 2, 2014

In the early 20th century, Mount Royal was Calgary’s new upscale community. Nicknamed American Hill, it was very popular with those from our neighbouring states to the south who were moving to cowtown.  Fast forward to the early 21st century, and it is Aspen Woods that it the hot upscale new community.  It too is located on a hill (Signal Hill), just a little farther away from downtown with boundaries being from 17th Avenue SW north to Bow Trail and 69th Street SW west to 101 Street SW. 

The old real estate adage “location, location, location” being the most important factor in home buying was never more true than it is for Aspen Woods.  What people love about living in Aspen is that it is 15 minutes to downtown and 15 minutes out of town to the mountains.  It is also 15 minutes to Chinook Centre (Calgary’s biggest mall), the University of Calgary, Foothill Hospital and Alberta Children’s Hospital.

The location is also great for young families with the best collection of schools in the city.  In addition to public and Catholic schools, there six private or charter schools – Calgary Academy, Calgary French & International School, Calgary Waldorf School, Edge School, Rundle Senior High and Webber Academy.  It should come as no surprise then that 25% of the population is under 14 years of age compared to the city average of 18%.  What might be shocking though is that only 3% of the population is over 65 (City average 10%).

 Aspen Woods is a haven for Calgary’s successful young executive and entrepreneur families - 71% of the population is married (City average 50%), a whopping 45% have university degree (City average 25%) and home ownership stands at 90% (City average 73%).  However, unlike Mount Royal in the early 20th century, 24% of the Aspen Woods’ residents are visible minorities, exactly the same as the city average. 

In addition to its great location and schools, Aspen Woods also has some great shopping in the community and nearby. The Aspen Landing shopping centre is a hybrid of urban street shopping and suburban big box stores.  Residents can shop at trendy places like Blush Organic Market, Ladybug Bakery & Café and boutique wine stores like Merlo Vinoteca.

Jennifer Rempel Executive Director of the 4th Street BRZ (business revitalization zone) is typical of many young Calgarians who have chosen to move to Aspen Woods upon the arrival of their first child. To quote Rempel, “For a 30 something (with a new family), if you have lived somewhat inner city for most of your 20s and into your 30s, and are looking to move to a family community that still has great restaurants, cafes, shopping without the drive on Deerfoot to work, Aspen has it all. It’s the type of community where kids play hockey in the street during the day and parents can walk to dine at Mercato at night.”

Smiling, she adds that it’s just coincidence that many of her 4th Street merchants have opened a second location in or near Aspen Woods, including Vin Room West, Mercato West, Original Joes and Frilly Lilly.

Aspen Woods residents also enjoy having access not only to one of Calgary’s best, in fact one of North America’s best recreational centers – Westside Recreational Centre. Did you know it is home to the largest leisure ice surface in North America? It also has Canada’s first youth-dedicated wellness centre, where they have their own place to work out and hang out.

As you would expect and hope, Aspen Woods has been carefully designed to preserve its many stands of Aspen trees and to provide views and access to the many ravines as it is the beginning of the foothills.  It is more like living in a park than living in an urban or suburban community.  It shares some of the elements of the international “City Beautiful Movement” of the late 19th century where architects and urban planners introduced the idea that if cities focused on designing beautiful, monumental and grand parks, plazas, streets and buildings, there would be more social harmony and order in the lives of its citizens. 

It isn’t cheap to live in Aspen Woods with the average new home priced at over one million dollars.  The community grabbed national attention last February when a 9,300 square foot home dubbed the “French Castle” sold for over $10 million. 

Aspen Woods truly is the home to many of Calgary’s noveau riche. 

Westside LRT Station Parkade (photo credit: dominion stuart olson)

The Aspen Woods castle (photo credit: Ross Pavl)

Blush Lane Organic Market

Rundle Senior High 

Aspen Woods skateboard park

Westside Recreation Centre

Denver's tallest office tower is transformed into an art gallery

By Richard White, April 30, 2014

"Scrounge" is a great name for an art exhibition, as most artists I know love to explore thrift and second hand stores, as well as rummage and garage sales "scrounging" for artifacts. I even know one artist who regularly roams the back alleys of his inner city community to see what he can find. Society's new mantra of "recycle, reuse and repurpose" is just beginning to catch-up with what visual artists have been doing for centuries.  

The Arts Brookfield's exhibition "Scrounge"  in the lobby and lower level of the 56-floor Republic Plaza office tower in downtown Denver is a very ambitious project.  Yes, lots of office building lobbies have public art and yes some even host exhibitions from time to time, but rarely do they have a curated exhibition with 26 different artists and over 100 works of art.  

The diversity and creativity of the art in this exhibition is impressive - everything from recycled clothing fabricated into weird and wacky figurative sculptures to robots made of household appliances.  While some of the works are modest, folk art-like pieces, several are major works of art. "Scrounge" is a fun, thought-provoking exhibition. 

One of the unique things about the visual arts is that you can take the experience home with you and live with it for years.  Too often public and private galleries make it very difficult find out if it is for sale and if so, the price.  Most of the art in "Scrounge" is for sale and a copy of the price list are easy to obtain from the office lobby. 

Unfortunately, the Republic Plaza's walls and lighting are not ideal for art. I don't understand why the interior design of office lobbies (and for that matter, public buildings like libraries, hospitals and courthouses too) aren't designed so they can better accommodate art exhibitions. In most cases, I expect it would be cheaper than the cost of fountains, gardens, trees and living walls. 

Here are some of our favourite artworks from "Scrounge," the exhibition continues until June 5, 2014 (8am to 6 pm, Monday to Friday).

The main floor lobby is filled with whimsical assemblages like this piece by Mark Friday that blur the boundaries between folk art, still life and sculpture.

The main floor lobby is filled with whimsical assemblages like this piece by Mark Friday that blur the boundaries between folk art, still life and sculpture.

Jimmy Descant is famous for his robots and spacemen made from household appliance parts.

Owen Gordon's "Waisting Time" is a quirky artwork that incorporates lots of pants, belts and a chair. 

Close-up of "Waisting Time."

The integration of numerials, mathematics and space travel is a recurring theme in the exhibition.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is a huge "Scrounge" exhibition title artwork in the lobby entrance with eight artists from the exhibition each creating one 4-foot letter. The letter "S" by Deborah Jang using an old traffic sign, spindles from a staircase and recycled wood. It employs a playful sense of line, pattern and shape. 

"Ducks in a Row" by Mario Rivoli is a very fun piece, but suffers from too much reflection off the glass and the distractions of the mottled wall.  Below is Rivoli's artist statement which is a fun read, capturing the spirit of many artists, not just those who work with recycled materials. 

artist's statement

I love the simplicity of Craig Robb's "Second Twilight" made of steel and rubber tubing. 

Bernice Strawn had several of these wood and metal simple figurative pieces (each piece had a hint of colour, either red or blue). I was very tempted to purchase one of these to add to my collection. 


Scrounge was a wonderful surprise as we flaneured the streets and buildings of downtown Denver.  We were just walking by on our way to Denver's Cultural Zone and the Art Museum when Brenda spotted the art though the lobby's large glass walls.  It turned out to be the highlight of our downtown Denver walkabout.

Kudos to Arts Brookfield for facilitating the exhibition.  I wish more Brookfield-owned offices would enlist in the program. (Arts Brookfield is a global initiative which engages communities by invigorating their public spaces through free, world-class cultural experiences.)

Let's hope Brookfield's new office tower, Brookfield Place in Calgary will have a purpose-built gallery at street level that will accommodate ongoing art exhibitions like "Scrounge."   I would also hope that Telus' new Sky Tower, also in Calgary would have a gallery/lobby space for exhibitions to animate the building and street seven days a week.

Kudos to Calgary's Eight Avenue Place which is currently using its lobby and +15 (second floor) retail spaces as an art gallery and event space in the same way as Denver's Republic Plaza.

If you like this blog, you might like:

Iconic Canadian Art Hidden in YYC Office Lobby!

Flaneuring Bow Valley College's Art Collection

A-mazing University of New Mexico Campus