Soon hundreds of new residents will be invading East Village, the first since Battistella Developments’ Orange Lofts in 2003. When Mayor Bronconnier announced the City was forming the Canada Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC), in 2007, to develop yet another master plan for East Village (after 2005 World’s Fair bid failed) many were doubtful it would be successful.
Under the leadership of Chris Ollenberger, CMLC’s first CEO, the development of an ambitious and comprehensive East Village Master Plan was fast tracked. Soon major infrastructure projects commenced – 4th Street Underpass, Riverwalk and rebuilding of all the roads – to demonstrate to potential developers and future purchasers the new East Village was going to happen.
Over the past few years, East Village has been a mega construction site with a mix of exciting projects – condos, museum, library, hotel, and pedestrian bridge. It is not a coincidental the Simmons Building and St. Patrick’s Island both reopened just as new residents are about to move in. It was all part of the master plan; each project was timed to create a synergy that will foster a vibrant new mixed-use urban village for Calgarians.
I must admit when I first saw the computer renderings for the new East Village condos I was less than impressed. I was expecting designs that were more intriguing, innovative and individual.
FRAM+Slokker’s 18-storey condo “First” seemed conservative for a 21st century urban village with its rectangular podium at street level with another rectangle tower on top. The only contemporary elements are two black boxes jutting out from the white façade. I couldn’t help but think of Battisella’s fun Pixel condo in Kensington with its sunshine yellow boxes, which to me are more cheerful and charming.
Similarly, Embassy BOSA’s “Evolution” a white two-tower condo with brick podium also seemed like a generic design that could be anywhere. Nothing shouted out to me “this is new, this is innovative, this is the new East Village in Calgary.” In fact, they look like something borrowed from South Beach, Miami or some other ocean resort community.
I was surprised neither design integrates some of the blue/green palette of the Bow River. Rather it seems the palette for East Village condos (including N3) - white, black and grey - was taken from Riverwalk, rather than Bow River.
Don't need to be bold?
However, after recently hanging out in East Village my thinking is changing. The big, bold architectural statements in East Village will be the National Music Centre and the new Central Library, with the condos playing a supporting role. I now realize, First, Evolution and N3 don’t need to be bold, they need to work in harmony with the new Library and National Music Centre and historic buildings like the Simmons Building.
In a good landscape painting there are usually one or two focal points with the rest of the painting providing visual interest through their line, shape, space, colours, textures, contrasts, variety, rhythms and patterns that are synergistic with the focal points. East Village’s landscape painting is still a work in progress, but it is getting better every month. It could well be a masterpiece in the making.