East Village: A Masterpiece In the Making?

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.  

East Village sales pavilion, with new condos in the background.

Generic Design?

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.  

Embassy BOSA's Evolution project in East Village.

FRAM+Slokker’s 18-storey condo “First” 

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. 

National Music Centre / King Edward Hotel is currently under construction. 

New downtown library is currently under construction. 

The new George King bridge links East Village to St. Patrick's Island which has been revitalized into an urban playground with elements like pebble beach. 

St. Patrick's Island's pebble beach.

East Village River Walk geometry. 

Simmons Building on the River Walk is home to a restaurant, cafe and bakery. 

Last Word

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.

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Aerial view of East Village (see towers with yellow cranes) and St. Patrick and St. George Islands. (photo credit Peak Aerials Photography)

CANADA Vacations Unlimited 1951 (Part 1)

My, my, how times have changed! Today I received a package of Calgary and Banff artifacts from a 3rd cousin living in Los Angeles who my Mom recently reconnected with. She is a big collector and loves treasure hunting at flea markets and fairs in the LA area.  When my Mom told her about my interest in old Calgary artifacts, she said she’d keep that in mind. 

I really never gave it much thought until very recently my Mom told me to expect a package in the mail from Sally.  Today it arrived - a nice two-page handwritten letter (can’t remember the last time I saw one of those), a dozen postcards and a magazine entitled “CANADA Vacations Unlimited,” all purchased at the Glendale, California, Vintage Paper Fair.  

While the postcards were wonderful, it was the 50-page, 1951, full-colour magazine that immediately caught my attention. Produced by the Canadian Government Travel Bureau (part of the department of Resources and Development), the magazine was aimed at enticing Americans to visit Canada.  It was captivating to see how Canada branded itself as a tourist destination 60+ years ago.

I was immediately struck by the lack of any information about Canadian cities; it is dominated by images of hunting, fishing, swimming, beaches, horseback riding and golf. Everything is family, rural and quaint. Shopping gets only minimal attention and food and dining isn’t even on the radar. 

No advertisements, no hotel listings, no phone numbers and no coupons and about festivals, museums, art galleries 

Branding the Provinces

The first 20 pages area devoted to profiling our 10 provinces – photo heavy and text light. And, nothing on the Territories.

British Columbia is branded as “Canada’s Pacific Province” with “great mountain ranges like Switzerland, deep costal inlets like Norway and valleys with pastoral charm of England’s quiet shires.” There is no mention of the charms of Vancouver except to say “it is the largest city in British Columbia, with more population than any state capital in the U.S. with the exception of Boston.  Images include the Empress Hotel (Victoria), Cathedral Grove (Alberni), Skyline Trail (Yoho Valley) and a generic game fishing photo. 

Cathedral Grove, Alberni (full page photo, quality of this image is similar to the one in the magazine as are most of the other images). 

The Empress Hotel, Victoria / Yoho Valley from Skyline Trail, Yoho National Park 

Alberta is branded as “Canada’s Mile-High Mountain Playground” where “cowhands and reservation Indians still roam Alberta’s grazing lands against the splendor of the Canadian Rockies, and the Calgary Stampede gets more spectacular each year.” The images are of “cowgirls sitting on a fence at Stampede, picnic at Waterton Lakes National Park, lookout on Banff Jasper Highway and Bow River from Banff Springs Hotel.”

Bow River Valley from Banff Springs Hotel (full page) 

Lookout Banff-Jasper Highway / Picnic with a view at Waterton Lakes National Park.

Saskatchewan branded as “Land of the last frontier” is where there’s fishing, hunting, swimming, boating, camping, hiking, golf, tennis and riding.” Images include Qu’Appelle Valley, public gardens (Regina), picnicking (Lake Waskesiu), golf (Prince Albert Park) and boating (unnamed river/lake).

Scene in the North Saskatchewan parklands (full page) 

Golf at Prince Albert National Park 

Manitoba is branded as “Inside the rim of Adventure” (whatever that means). The entire text is focused on fishing and hunting with no mention of Winnipeg as a tourist destination. But, it does point out that “the adventurous, if they have a special licence, can hunt the belugas and great white whales of Hudson Bay – boats and harpoons are supplied at Churchill and the big mammals sometimes weigh up to 2,000 pounds.” Images include ruins of old fortress at Churchill, a couple on the shore of Whiteshell Reserve, beach on Lake Winnipeg and shore of Clear Lake.”

On the shores of Clear Lake (full page) 

Ontario is “Canada’s All-Year Vacation Province” and includes names of the 14-tourist reception centres and how the climate ranges from Arctic temperatures in the north to peach, strawberry and tobacco growing in the extreme south, which by the way is south of northern California.  There are small photos of a Mountie and the Peace Tower in Ottawa, swimming in a quiet lake, sentry at Kingston’s Fort Henry, Niagara Falls and a “Niagara Peninsula blossom queen. No mention of Toronto - how can that be?

Full page image for Ontario 

When autumn paints Ontario woodlands / Summer sunning at a quiet lake

Quebec is “Canada’s French Heritage” that offers “vacation charm with a French-Canadian accent, exhilarating scenery, Scandinavian-type skiing as well as hunting and fishing.  Quebec City is North America’s only walled city and cosmopolitan Montreal is the largest in all Canada, as well as being the world’s greatest inland port.”  Images include a cruise ship passing Chateau Frontenac, looking out over the city of Montreal from Mount Royal, Gaspe Bay fisherman and highway along Lake Massawippi.  What? No mention of maple syrup or poutine!

Montreal lies below the lookout atop Mount Royal 

New Brunswick is branded as “Canada’s Unspoiled Province by the Sea” with more information about fishing, beach colonies and a quick mention of Magnetic Hill and Reversing Falls. Images include a woman sitting on the edge of canoe, salmon fishing in the Miramichi River, fishing smacks at Caraquet, fine game bird shooting and Bay of Fundy. 

Autumn comes to the St. John River Valley (full page image) 

“Canada’s Ocean Playground” is Nova Scotia’s brand, “where every village has a story and usually there is a historic background to the tale.”  Visitors who stay for more than a few days are eligible for the ‘Order of the Good Cheer’ North America’s first social club formed in 1606 by Samuel de Champlain.”  Images are of the beach at Ingonish, landing a giant tuna at Wedgeport and small sailboats in North West Arm in Halifax.

The North West Arm at Halifax (full page) 

A giant tuna is landed at Wedgeport / On the beach at Ingonish, looking towards Cape Smoky

Prince Edward Island is “Canada’s Garden Island Province” with “specialties of potato growing and oyster farming and where a lack of heavy industry have kept it from being better known.” (I am not making this stuff up; this is their promotional material.) There are photos of Parliament Buildings, silks and sulkies, north shore beach, Keppoch Beach and rural countryside.

Two-page spread promoting Prince Edward Island 

Lastly, Newfoundland is “Canada’s Newest Province” which in 1951 was a big deal as it just became the 10th province in 1949. There is a whole paragraph on St. John’s history and the city’s role in the American War of Independence, War of 1812 and World War II. The text ends with “The Canadian dollar has been the accepted currency in Newfoundland since 1894.”  Images include a fishing cove, Gander airport, lumber mill (Corner Brook) and scenic highway on the Humber River. I can’t believe there is no mention of icebergs or a photo of one.

Scene along the Humber River (full page) 

 Lumber mills at Corner Brook / S.S.Gulfport nearing Newfoundland shores / Gander Airport

Lumber mills at Corner Brook / S.S.Gulfport nearing Newfoundland shores / Gander Airport

Last Word

If you found this blog insightful, you will definitely want to read CANADA Vacations Unlimited Part 2 (later this week), which will look at how Canada’s Travel Bureau promoted National Parks, Vacation Highways, Fishing, Canoeing, Camping, Swimming, Relaxing, Shrines and Historic Sites to Americans.  You will be surprised, maybe even shocked at how we branded shopping in Canadian shopping.

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