Last Saturday, CBC Calgary as part of its "Route Ahead" feature published my piece profiling how Calgary has engaged several international architectural firms to create exciting new buildings, bridges and public spaces in our City Centre.
While the piece was well received by many including Mayor Nenshi, there were criticism that the piece focused too much on starchitects, rather than local urban designers and that Calgary has a long way to go before it will be recognized as a "Design City" by world travellers.
What was edited out of the CBC piece was the following paragraph by Saskatoon architect Charles Olfert who while very impressed by how far Calgary has come over the past 20 years, points out why Calgary is NOT yet a "Design City."
Saskatoon architect, Charles Olfert one of the founding architects of Saskatoon’s aodbt architects is a regular visitor to Calgary, as well as a world traveler.
When asked if Calgary is on the cusp of becoming a design city he replied, “Do big name, out-of-town designers make Calgary a ‘Design City,’ I would have to say, NO! To me, Copenhagen epitomizes a ‘Design City’ as its commitment to quality and design goes beyond just the buildings. They have a “Design Centre” to assist visitors to explore the city’s many uniquely designed buildings and public spaces. When you ask a Copenhagen resident about a building, they will often know the name of the architect and the idea behind the design concept. The overall community’s engagement in design is amazing.”
He adds, "Calgary is well on the way to becoming a design city, but it is not the big name starchitects that will ultimately achieve this goal. It will be when there is a design awareness and appreciation in the everyday culture of the community. Copenhagen has achieved this."
While Olfert is just one person, I do respect his opinion as informed and as an outsider. Sometimes it is hard for Calgarians like me to be objective about the city we love. In researching this piece several urban design professions from Calgary also cautioned me about calling Calgary a "design city."
I hope that those of you who live in Calgary will use this blog and google maps to tour downtown with family and friends and decide for yourself if Calgary is on the cusp of becoming a design city. I'd love to hear what you think!
Here is a reprint of the CBC News Calgary piece with more and different photos.
Calgary: Calgary's global architecture, a nifty walking tour.
Will BIG’s Telus Sky and Sonhetta’s new Central Library put Calgary on the map of world Design Cities?
Sure we are not a Dubai, New York City, London or Singapore. But when it comes to being on the world map of Design Cities, we have come along way in the past 20 years. Global designs, has changed the face of our city.