Last year at Stampede time I wrote a blog titled “Stampede 2015: Have we lost that luv’n feeling?” in which I criticized downtown business for the lack of Stampede decorations. This year we flanuered downtown on the first Saturday of Stampede and again found that once you get off Stephen Avenue, you’d be hard pressed tell that Stampede is happening. However, there was one big (and nice!) exception - the lobby of Eighth Avenue Place (EAP).
We had gone there to show our friends the iconic Canadian paintings that are perfectly displayed in the elevator lobbies at street level and beautiful Jack Shadbolt painting in the entrance off 8th Avenue SW.
However, not only did we enjoy the paintings but also the wonderful “western town” vignettes that would make Heritage Park and the Glenbow proud. We were all amazed at the number of vignettes and their detail – clearly, careful thought and attention had gone into their creation.
I quickly emailed Gord Menzies, General Manager of EAP to learn more.
“The Stampede interactive sets have been an evolving element of EAP since we first launched them almost five years ago. The designs have been a collaborative effort between myself, team members like my Assistant Property Manager Amanda Verge and Bill and Heather Tuffs of Alliance Entertainment who actually build, house and erect the structures.
The initial concept was simply to create a backdrop for the Stampede celebrations and transform our lobbies into the old west…but they rapidly adopted an interactive flavour, not just for tenants but also for visitors to the complex, who love to step into the sets for pictures and fun. Alliance has done a great job bringing our visions to life.
We have created a sheriff’s office, hotel, saloon, photo studio, livery, stable and dance hall, barbershop, mine and - there are also plans for a theatre and stage for live entertainment. The idea is to create new vignettes each year so we can rotate them every year to keep the lobby feeling lively and new each Stampede.
I’d say we’ve raised the bar for the city…you won’t find any painted windows at Eighth Avenue Place. We have also joined forces with some of our Platinum Partners - London Barber’s, Spindrift Photography and Health Span Corporate Massage - to bring them to life, offering free straight razor shaves, vintage photos and massages on certain days.”
Where did the idea come from?
Menzies says, “Growing up, I remember some great western TV shows (Gunsmoke, Ponderosa) and films (Shane, True Grit, The Magnificent Seven) that seeded my ideas for the project. I expect them to continue to evolve and embody some further elements specific to Canadiana – perhaps a train station platform, a fur trader canoe or an RCMP post. We need to get David Thompson and Alexander MacKenzie in there somewhere and perhaps something aboriginal to connect to the annual tipi display on the exterior.”
Menzies is not one to rest on his laurels. “I’m very big on props and have challenged Bill and Heather to get us things that can be touched, felt or worn. I want people to be able to step into these snapshots of their heritage and feel it resonate. As always, Eighth Avenue Place isn’t just a place of business; it’s an experience.”
I would have to agree with Menzies. There is no Calgary office building that is more dramatic in design and has more programming than EAP.
Kudos to him and his team for daring to be different!