Public Art: Capturing a sense of time and place.

This guest blog, by architect Tom Tittemore (former chair Calgary Public Art Board) and a long time Everyday Tourist reader, looks at three public artworks that had a major impact on him on his recent European travels.

The Importance of Statuary (or, ‘Clothes make the man’, Mark  Twain)

John A. MacDonald statue smeared with red paint in Montreal. 

John A. MacDonald statue smeared with red paint in Montreal. 

Calgarians reside in a place where “statuary” (statues regarded collectively) is predominantly of the barnyard variety:  horses and cows mainly.  We also reside in a country where figurative honorific statuary is becoming increasingly scrutinized and ‘shamed’ through new cultural and political lenses. 

For example, this week’s vandalism of John A. MacDonald’s statue in Montreal by anarchists due to claims of his racism towards indigenous peoples. 

In contrast, Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland offer a rich palette of statuary that portray key participants in their regions’ respective lengthy, complex, inspiring and tumultuous histories. Three statues within unique, specific sites resonated with me during my recent travels there.  Each reveres the individual’s notable contributions to Western thought, politics and culture.

Man on the Street (Dublin, Ireland – 1990)

 “James Joyce's fictional universe centres on Dublin, and is populated largely by characters who closely resemble family members, enemies and friends from his time there. Ulysses in particular is set with precision in the streets and alleyways of the city.” (Wikipedia)
Detail of James Joyce statue.

Detail of James Joyce statue.

The commemorative statue of this avant garde 20th century writer by Marjorie Fitzgibbon is located on Talbot Street in a recently modernized, pedestrian-focused precinct of Dublin. 

Its ordinary street setting contrasts with the nearby formal O’Connell Street that honors many of the country’s political heroes instrumental in Ireland’s fight for national autonomy one hundred years ago. 

James Joyce’s roughly hewn bronze statue is human-scaled, approachable, tactile, haughty, stylish and proud.  

He stands slightly above the many passerbys, who are likely caught up in their own daily ‘streams of consciousness’ (or ‘interior monologues’ that typify Joyce’s writing style).

“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” James Joyce
Locals and tourists alike encounter Joyce as part of their everyday experience.

Locals and tourists alike encounter Joyce as part of their everyday experience.

Shifting Reason (Edinburgh, Scotland – 1997)

“David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist and essayist who is best known today for his highly influential system of philosophical empiricism, skepticism and naturalism.” (Wikipedia)

David Hume’s sculptural representation by Alexander Stoddart on the historic Royal Mile in Edinburgh evokes the spirit of pre-Christian society. Whilst balancing his seminal ‘A Treatise of Human Nature,’ his pose and simple adornment portrays to me the philosopher’s anti-rational moral philosophy grounded in causal determinism, sentimentalism and atheism.

Whoa! Yes, all heedy stuff here!!  However, this personage is a nadir of what I refer to as the “18th Century Enlightened Scottish Renaissance.”  Hopefully, some of the tourist throng exploring Edinburgh will discover, as I did, how Hume and his other Scottish contemporaries embellished our 21st century lives with increased knowledge, greater freedom, improved health and ample convenience.

“A wise man, therefore, proportions his beliefs to the evidence.”  David Hume
Statues often become urban meeting places and performance spaces for locals and tourists. 

Statues often become urban meeting places and performance spaces for locals and tourists. 

Protestation (Belfast, Northern Ireland – late 20th century)

OK, this example isn’t statuary, but should be considered a variation of my theme.

Murals can be integrated in various ways into urban landscape. 

Murals can be integrated in various ways into urban landscape. 

The political upheaval that took place during the ‘70s and ‘80s has left a perceptible residue of unease and tension that I perceived during my brief afternoon stay and Black Cab tour (a specially selected fleet of drivers who have intimate knowledge of Belfast storied history and will take you on a personal tour of the city). 

The two warring religious-based camps created homage to their respective heroes from this still unresolved event in the form of extensive mural art throughout the city.

The mural of Kieran Nugent, the first ‘blanket man,’ exists within a working class, predominantly Catholic neighbourhood.  Along with others of his generation – my generation – many of whom met a self-sacrificial fate, he speaks daily to pedestrians and motorists from an ordinary brick building.

Without question, this Black Cab tour of Belfast that provided my wife Carol and I with a personal tour of the city through the eyes of, in our case, a Protestant driver, was one of the most memorable events of my trip.

‘When sentenced to three years, Nugent refused to wear a prison uniform and said the prison guards would have to "...nail it to my back.”’
Murals can be very effective as reminders of a city's history. 

Murals can be very effective as reminders of a city's history. 

Conclusion

Appreciating public art, not unlike any other art genre, often takes effort in the form of curiosity and research – plus a good pair of walking shoes! If one subscribes to the notion that a purpose of public art is to tell, or reinterpret, a story of Place from the artist’s perspective, then one has to understand the Place in all its many facets.

As an avid ‘Urban Trekker,’ not unlike a flaneur, public art provides me with a source of wonder and fascination in understanding the culture of our cities.

The statues of Adam Smith, William lll of Orange, William Playfair, King George lll, Molly Malone, General Wellington, Robbie Burns and Dugald Stewart’s - and their stories - also contributed to my enjoyment of this unique region. A region that has strong historical and cultural affiliation with Calgary.

Everyday Tourist Rebuttal

While Tom thinks most of Calgary’s statuary art is of the barnyard variety, three of Calgary’s most popular and prominent pieces are in fact figurative and function much like what he experienced in Europe. 

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The “Famous Five,” an ambitious work by Edmonton sculptor Barbara Paterson, celebrates the five women who successfully lobbied for womens' rights in the early 20th century. 

It is a lovely work that integrates well with Olympic Plaza and invites the public to stop and interact with it. 

Another popular statuary art in Calgary is “The Conversation” by William McElcheran, located in front of Hudson’s Bay department store on Stephen Avenue.  This piece depicts two businessmen engaged in a face-to-face discussion with strong hand gestures.  Given downtown Calgary has one of the largest concentrations of corporate headquarters in North America, this work and its location (i.e. in the middle of our CBD) is very appropriate for our city’s culture.

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Finally, no discussion of statuary art in Calgary would be complete without looking at “The Brotherhood of Mankind,” known by some as “The Family of Man.” Created by Spanish artist Mario Armengol as part of the British Pavilion for Montreal's Expo ’67, these 10 huge (each approx. 6.5m tall and 680 kilograms) naked stick figures were purchased at auction and donated to the City of Calgary for tax purposes by Calgary businessman Robert Cummings.

Backstory: When the figures were first set up, the pieces weren't in the circle formation we see today. Rather, they were spread out as part of an exhibit called Britain in the World. The oversized figures were meant to suggest the dominance of man and stood next to what the Brits determined were their “gifts” to the modern world – things like language, government systems, law and traditions.  Ironically, when they arrived in Calgary there were no installation instructions so City staff decided they should be in a circle and thus became a family – perhaps reflecting Calgary’s strong family orientation.

Last Word

Tittemore is correct Calgary does have lots of barnyard statues, but many do reflect our history and culture which includes ranching and agriculture.

Close up of Begg's sculpture of Sitting Eagle.

Close up of Begg's sculpture of Sitting Eagle.

Joe Fafard’s seven galloping horses in Hotchkiss Gardens and Richard Loffler’s Outlaw (the Calgary’s Stampede’s legendary bull that was only ridden once) are two good examples. 

I would also be remise if this blog didn’t recognize Don Begg’s statue of a very proud and welcoming Sitting Eagle (also known as John Hunter) located downtown at the corner of 7th Ave and 6th St. SW. 

Perhaps a blog showcasing Calgary’s statutory art is what I should be working on. 

If you like this blog, you will like these links:

Dublin Revisited in 36 Postcards

The Famous Five at Olympic Plaza

Stampede Park sculpture becomes family playground

 

Point Mckay: A Garden Paradise

Many times I have said “don’t judge a community until the trees are taller than the houses.”  I was reminded of this over the summer as I picked up a golf buddy once a week at his townhome in Point McKay before heading out to Redwood Meadows.  As the summer unfolded, so did the amazing trees and flowers that make the northwest community of Point McKay a garden paradise.

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It is bounded at the north by Bowness Road, at the east by 37 Street NW, at he south by the Bow River and at the west by the Edworthy Park parking lot.  For many, Point McKay is the two brown brick highrise condo towers (Riverside I and II) along Parkdale Boulevard next to the Edworthy Park parking lot, or the townhome backyards you can see when you walk or cycle along the north shore of the Bow River. In reality, it is a hidden gem.

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Point McKay was one of Calgary’s first attempts at creating an urban village.  The 21- storey Riverside I and II towers (completed in 1979 and 1981 respectfully) create the high density (295 units) with retail and a fitness centre at street level they are similar in many ways to the new towers in the Beltline.

It isn’t until you drive into the townhome area to the east of the towers that you begin to appreciate how this urban village is a garden oasis.

The curved, tree-lined streets are divided into six clusters (built from 1977 to 1980) totalling 505 town homes and 30 duplexes.  What makes them really special is the lovely side and backyards that open up to common areas lush with flowers, trees and expanses of green grass. 

 

There are no detached single-family homes in Point McKay, the same as University District one of Calgary’s new 21st century urban villages, currently being built just a few kilometers away.

Lush garden pathways create pastoral backyards.

Lush garden pathways create pastoral backyards.

Best side yards in Calgary?

Best side yards in Calgary?

City Beautiful Movement

One Sunday afternoon, I cycled over to explore the community on foot.  I was gobsmacked by how beautiful the side yards and interior common areas were. I was immediately reminded of the “City Beautiful” movement popular in Canada in the early 20th century, with its principles of creating urban communities that were less grid-like and more park-like. This meant curved streets, irregular lot shapes, boulevards, an abundance of parks and architectural controls; not dissimilar to what we saw in Calgary’s late 20th century communities.

View of Point McKay from the Bow River pathways (north side).

View of Point McKay from the Bow River pathways (north side).

Amenities

Point McKay has easy access to the Bow River pathway - for cycling downtown to work and/or play, or perhaps a recreational walk in the evenings or on weekends.  You could walk to work if you worked at the Foothills Medical Centre.

It is also close to both Edworthy (pebble beach) and Shouldice (sports fields) Parks. It is also only a short walk to Angel’s Cappuccino & Ice Cream café in Edworthy Park or the Lazy Loaf Café, Extreme Bean or Lic’s Ice Cream in Parkdale.

Cottage-like streets are child friendly even without sidewalks. 

Cottage-like streets are child friendly even without sidewalks. 

Backstory:

In 1977, Cinema Park Drive-In, with its parking lot that accommodated 1036 cars, was demolished to make way for the Point McKay upscale high-rise/townhouse development.  The development is named after Alfred Sidney McKay (1860–1940), a Calgary who homesteaded the land that is now Point McKay and Parkdale.  He built a sandstone home near the Bow River at 1st Ave and 37th St NW that is still there today albeit hidden in the middle of Point McKay and rented to an architectural firm. Yes you can still walk in and see it.  

FYI: There are also four 100 year old brick homes along 37th Street that were built as a parade of show homes when the new community of Parkdale was McKay built as show homes when he was first being developed. 

A 100 year old show home.....

A 100 year old show home.....

Last Word

Today, Point McKay is home to some lucky 1,348 people who live in a garden paradise that is unique to Calgary.

Note: This blog was originally published in the November 2017 Issue of Condo Living Magazine. 

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City Building: Impact Of Calgary's Mega Transportation Projects

Recently I came across an early 20th century postcard showcasing Calgary’s 13th Avenue SW. It was an image of a street lined with lovely new homes that immediately struck me as looking exactly like a new street in any one of Calgary’s many new communities on the edge of the city.

It also reminded me that 13th Avenue was Calgary’s first millionaires row, with the most well known mansion being the Lougheed House and its lovely garden.

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Why 13th Ave?

This caused me ponder and reflect. Why would Calgary’s rich and famous choose 13th Avenue SW.? I am guessing it was because it was close to where they lived, worked and played i.e. downtown – but not too close.  It was far enough away from the CPR rail tracks and the warehouses along 10th Avenue, but close enough to the passenger train station.  And, it was near the new Carnegie library in Central Park, now Memorial Park.

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Right Side Of The Tracks

In the late 19th and early 20th century, the CPR rail line was the only transportation route into and out of our then the frontier city. It essentially divided the City in half - business on the north side and residential on the south side, a divide that still exists today.

This then had me wondering what other major transportation decisions over the past century have shaped urban living in Calgary today.

8th Avenue became Calgary's Main Street early in the 20th century partly because the City's first street cars came down the street. 

8th Avenue became Calgary's Main Street early in the 20th century partly because the City's first street cars came down the street. 

Deerfoot Trail Divide

Harry Hiller, urban sociologist at the University of Calgary coined the term “Deerfoot Divide” in the ‘90s in reference to how the creation of Deerfoot Trail in the ‘70s divided the city into residential development to its west and commercial development to its east.  Deerfoot Trail has since become part of the CANAMEX Corridor, an important trucking route linking Western Canada with the western United States and Mexico, pivotal in allowing Calgary to become a major inland port.

Most of Calgary's residential development is west of Deerfoot Trail (blue line) while the land to the east has been mostly industrial, warehouse land until recently.  

Most of Calgary's residential development is west of Deerfoot Trail (blue line) while the land to the east has been mostly industrial, warehouse land until recently.  

Over the past 30+ years, the land east of the Deerfoot has increasingly become home to mega warehouses, distribution centres and intermodal facilities. Only recently has there been new communities developed east of the Deerfoot Divide.

Backstory: Deerfoot Trail was originally called the Blackfoot Trail Freeway when the first section opened in 1971.  However, it was renamed in 1974 to honour Deerfoot (1864 – 1897) a late 19th century Siksika Nation long distance runner, known for his exceptional speed. He served as a foot carrier who carried messages between forts in southern Alberta and northern Montana. 

A statue of Deerfoot was located at the entrance to Deerfoot Mall, now being redeveloped as Deerfoot City.

 

Mcleod Trail has a similar history earlier in the 20th century, as most of the land to the east of Mcleod is industrial and commercial uses, while to the west is all residential. 

The LRT Influence

LIDO condo  next to the LRT tracks in Calgary tony Sunnyside community. 

LIDO condo  next to the LRT tracks in Calgary tony Sunnyside community. 

Fast forward to the late ‘70s. The route for the NW LRT was announced and immediately there was controversy.

People living in Sunnyside were not happy to have the noise and congestion that the LRT (then an unknown commodity) would bring to their peaceful bohemian community.

Early NIMBYism?  Over time, the houses next to the LRT line became very tired and rundown. Only recently have new upscale condo development near the station has begun to happen – Pixel and LIDO by Battisella Developments and Kensington and Ven by Bucci Developments.

In fact, it has taken decades for the land around the NW LRT stations to attract new urban development – Renaissance condos at Lions Park Station, University City condos at Brentwood Station and The Groves of Varsity at the Dalhousie Station.

However, today more and more Calgarians are adopting the urban living lifestyle that is more oriented to transit, cycling and walking than driving.  Future Transit-Oriented sites include Anderson, Banff Trail, Chinook and Westbrook Stations.   

However, Greg Morrow, who held the Richard Parker Professorship Metropolitan Growth and Change position at the University of Calgary from 2015 to 2017 (and who now is the Fred Sands Professor of Real Estate and Executive Director of the Sands Institute at Pepperdine University, Los Angeles) sees a big problem in having LRT stations in the middle of a major road, “as it is less than ideal for walkability because you must walk a hundred metres to just get over the roadway.”

Many of Calgary's suburban LRT Stations are in the middle of a major highway, surrounded by Park & Ride lots, which makes for a long walk before you get to the neighbouring communities. 

Many of Calgary's suburban LRT Stations are in the middle of a major highway, surrounded by Park & Ride lots, which makes for a long walk before you get to the neighbouring communities. 

Green Line New Deerfoot?

With the recent announcement of the Green Line LRT route, one can only wonder what impact it will have on the urban living in Calgary’s future.  When fully built, it will be 46 km long with 28 stations. Will it be the new Deerfoot Trail? 

In the case of the Green Line, master planned urban communities are already being developed in anticipation of its construction.  Remington Developments conceived Quarry Park in the early 21th century as a “work, live, play” community knowing the LRT would eventually connect it to the downtown. 

Today, it sports its own shopping centre, recreation centre, library, diversity of housing options and signature 90-acre nature reserve along the Bow River.  It is home to several major head offices including Imperial Oil.  Already, about 1,500 people live in Quarry Park and 10,000 people work there. When fully built out, it will be home to 4,000 residents and 20,000 workers.  It is anticipated 25% of those living in Quarry Park will also work there and that 80% will live in a condo or apartment buildings.

Another up and running community is SETON (which stands for SE town). It was conceived by Brookfield Residential as a transit-oriented complete community with its downtown anchored by the South Health Campus.  It was designed as an urban hub at the end of the SE leg of Calgary’s LRT system as it was called before the SE and North legs were combined to become the Green Line. 

Similarly, Brookfield Residential planned Livingston at the north end of the Green Line as a mixed-use, transit-oriented community even before the Green Line was approved.  

Calgary's Green Line will bring LRT transit to dozens of new communities.  It will reinforce downtown as Calgary's transit hub which will further enhance downtown's position as Calgary's premier economic and cultural hub. 

Calgary's Green Line will bring LRT transit to dozens of new communities.  It will reinforce downtown as Calgary's transit hub which will further enhance downtown's position as Calgary's premier economic and cultural hub. 

Airport City

Indeed, there are lots of other examples of how changes in urban transportation in Calgary have shaped our city’s built form. Perhaps the biggest of all was the relocation of the Calgary International Airport in the mid ‘70s to what was then the northeast edge of the city.  Today, not only is the airport a major employment center, but all of the land surrounding the airport has become a huge warehouse distribution centre.  For many years the airport was a barrier to residential development, as nobody wanted to leave north or east of the airport, however, in the past decade the demand for housing with easy access to the Airport City has created a housing boom in Airdrie, as well as new northeast Calgary communities - Redstone, Skyview Ranch, StoneGate Landing and Cityscape. 

This illustration clearly documents Calgary's three large industrial areas. The Blackfoot area is the oldest and was east of Macleod Trail which served as the divide in the mid 20th century.  However, in the late 20th century Deerfoot Trail became the dividing line with the development of NW aka Airport industrial lands and SE industrial area.  

This illustration clearly documents Calgary's three large industrial areas. The Blackfoot area is the oldest and was east of Macleod Trail which served as the divide in the mid 20th century.  However, in the late 20th century Deerfoot Trail became the dividing line with the development of NW aka Airport industrial lands and SE industrial area. 

Last Word

People want to live close to work today, just like they did in the Beltline then know as Connaught in the early 20th century – just like in my postcard.

Over the last 100+ years, each of Calgary’s mega transportation projects has dramatically reshaped how Calgarians “live, work and play.” It will be very interesting in 50 years to see how the Ring Road has influenced urban living in Calgary.

Note: This blog was originally commissioned for Condo Living Magazine and published in two part in September and October 2017.

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Calgary Hidden Gem: The Book Dissected

University campuses are fascinating to me.  They are a world unto themselves, each with their own sense of place and unique energy.  After a recent Richard Parker Professorship in Metropolitan Growth and Change Advisory Committee meeting at the University of Calgary, I decided to flaneur the campus. 

Hidden Treasures 

For those of you who haven’t been on campus (or haven’t been there in many years), it is a maze of buildings, pathways and +15 bridges that can be difficult for the neophyte to negotiate. I was immediately drawn to the relatively new (opened in 2011) $205 million Taylor Family Digital Library complex which seems to have become the heart of the campus (but not before getting trapped in a construction detour). 

Upon entering, there was an advance Municipal Election polling station in the lobby, so I quickly voted.  Then above the polling station tables I saw a huge sign saying “The Book Dissected” exhibition was on the 5th Floor.  I couldn’t resist.

What I found was an amazing treasure – a tiny exhibition room hidden at the far end of the hall.  While the floor was packed with students, I doubt many or perhaps maybe any of them realized what lie at the end of that hall. 

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“Paradise Lost” Found

What I found was an intriguing exhibition entitled “The Book Dissected” exploring book construction and illustration from 1500 to the 1800s.  

The highlight for me was Book IX of John Milton’s Paradise Lost (published in 1688) opened to a full-page engraving illustrating the “fall of humankind.”  Nearby was a Latin bible from 1556 with an alchemical recipe scribbled on it and an ancient Swedish bible with pressed flowers still sitting on the opened page.

There are actually two edition of Milton's Paradise Lost in the collection a fourth edition (top, 1688) and second edition (bottom, 1674). 

There are actually two edition of Milton's Paradise Lost in the collection a fourth edition (top, 1688) and second edition (bottom, 1674). 

More Treasures

One of the most remarkable illustrations was an ancient clergyman’s design for Noah’s Ark, which the exhibition brochure says, is mathematically correct. Not sure how they would know that?

The exhibition also explores the collecting pursuits of ancient English travellers combined with specimens of the same time borrowed from the Faculty of Science to create a 17th century cabinet of curiosities.  

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Fun With Bibles

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Last Word

I left shaking my head wondering what other amazing treasures the University of Calgary has hidden away in remote locations.  In fact, the exhibition brochure says, “The bibles in Special Collections are a particularly rich source for provenance research.”  Surely, the Special Collections deserves a more prominent location in the Library and more recognition as one of Calgary’s best treasures.  With the right location and marketing, it could become a tourist attraction!  May I suggest it could replace the gift shop next to the Nickle Museum on the ground floor?

“The Book Dissected” is presented by the University of Calgary’s Special Collections and curated by Maria Zytaruk, Department of English.  It continues until December 4, 2017.

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Must See: cSPACE & I Am Western

If you haven’t been to the renovated three storey, sandstone King Edward School (1720 – 30th Ave SW) in Marda Loop you must go. The handsome building was completed in 1913 and was one of 19 sandstone schools built by the Calgary public school board between 1894 and 1914.

cSpace is currently hosting the provocative "I Am Western" art exhibition which is a "must see" for anyone interested in the visual arts and social commentary.  

cSpace is currently hosting the provocative "I Am Western" art exhibition which is a "must see" for anyone interested in the visual arts and social commentary.  

Old vs New

While cSPACE is still a work in progress (the school renovation is finished and 29 artists and art groups are all in, but they are still constructing the new performance space and completing the front yard landscaping). You can already see how the juxtaposition of the old and new is creating something very special both for Calgary’s creative community and the public.

The majestic King Edward School is getting a new life as a creative hub.  The construction on the left side is the new performance space.  The site will also include luxury condos on the west side and a seniors complex on the east. 

The majestic King Edward School is getting a new life as a creative hub.  The construction on the left side is the new performance space.  The site will also include luxury condos on the west side and a seniors complex on the east. 

Free

There is a bit of an urgency to go before Oct 1st 2017 as the well worth seeing exhibition “I Am Western” closes then.  I hope these postcards from our recent visit will entice you (and maybe bring some friends) to visit both the space and the exhibition before the end of September.  It’s FREE!

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Lyndal Osborne and Sherri Chaba, The Space Between Cities, 2011 is a mixed media installation that resembles a small tool or garden shed.  It includes fossils, wasp nests, antlers, furniture, digital images, pelts, grain seedlings, paddle, bird nest, bird wing, sunflower roots and much much more. The artists intent is for the viewer to "meditate upon the constant transformation of our world." 

Lyndal Osborne and Sherri Chaba, The Space Between Cities, 2011 is a mixed media installation that resembles a small tool or garden shed.  It includes fossils, wasp nests, antlers, furniture, digital images, pelts, grain seedlings, paddle, bird nest, bird wing, sunflower roots and much much more. The artists intent is for the viewer to "meditate upon the constant transformation of our world." 

Loved this shed-like structure full of fun everyday artifacts from the farm. Especially liked this beehive made from old matchbooks. 

Loved this shed-like structure full of fun everyday artifacts from the farm. Especially liked this beehive made from old matchbooks. 

John Freeman, Now You See It Soon You Won't, 2011, inkjet in on translucent polyester fabric. This tryptic that combines image word association "Rye-Food," "Grain-Same" and "Canola-Same" with images of prairie agriculture.  

John Freeman, Now You See It Soon You Won't, 2011, inkjet in on translucent polyester fabric. This tryptic that combines image word association "Rye-Food," "Grain-Same" and "Canola-Same" with images of prairie agriculture.  

Be sure to check out the stairwells, as they are full of fun artworks - don't take the elevator. Kids will love these.

Be sure to check out the stairwells, as they are full of fun artworks - don't take the elevator. Kids will love these.

People of all ages and backgrounds will enjoy the Chagall-like mural.

People of all ages and backgrounds will enjoy the Chagall-like mural.

Kelly Johner, The Three Sirens: For The Love of Bling, Prairie Song, Belle of the Bale, 2014. The artist's materials relate to the land or to activities on the farm but are given new purpose and meaning - saddles become female silhouettes, bale twine is crocheted into a dress by her mother and horse tack and heel rope become a hoop skirt.    Below are some close-up views of The Three Sirens.

Kelly Johner, The Three Sirens: For The Love of Bling, Prairie Song, Belle of the Bale, 2014. The artist's materials relate to the land or to activities on the farm but are given new purpose and meaning - saddles become female silhouettes, bale twine is crocheted into a dress by her mother and horse tack and heel rope become a hoop skirt.

Below are some close-up views of The Three Sirens.

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Hot Tip

Maybe plan your trip on a Saturday, so you can stop by the Marda Loop Farmers’ Market (at the nearby Community Centre parking lot) and pick up a coffee and perhaps a treat (there is no café at cSPACE) before heading to the school.  Also note the Alberta Craft Council gallery isn’t open until noon; so don’t get there too early.

Alberta Craft Council's boutique is a great place to find a unique gift.  They also have an art gallery the showcases the work of Alberta craft persons. 

Alberta Craft Council's boutique is a great place to find a unique gift.  They also have an art gallery the showcases the work of Alberta craft persons. 

Love this magazine rack with a sample of the many great magazines published in Alberta.  It provided us with good reading for the rest of the weekend.

Love this magazine rack with a sample of the many great magazines published in Alberta.  It provided us with good reading for the rest of the weekend.

Even if the studios aren't open you can still look inside and see some of the interesting art being produced.

Even if the studios aren't open you can still look inside and see some of the interesting art being produced.

Marda Loop Farmers' Market fun.

Marda Loop Farmers' Market fun.

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Art of Vintage: A Hidden Gem!

Sometimes you just stumble upon a hidden gem! This happened to us this past Saturday when we checked out the “I Am Western” art exhibition at cSPACE in the renovated King Edward School (both the art and renovated school are outstanding).

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Off The Beaten Path 

Heading back, a lime green sign saying “Vintage Shop” with an arrow, caught our attention! I thought it rather strange given there were no retail buildings in the direction of the arrow, i.e. 23rd Ave S.W.  

With the curiosity of a tourist and the wanderlust of a flaneur, we decided to investigate.

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Who Knew?

Sure enough. At the corner of 30th Street and 23rd Avenue SW sat a small commercial building that I had never noticed (probably because I have never been down this residential street) with a sign saying “Art of Vintage” and arrow pointing to the back alley.

Who knew there are two little commercial businesses facing the back alley - one being a vintage store?  I pride myself in being in the know when it comes to funky and quirky places in Calgary, but this one had escaped me…til now.

A great display of vintage wares out front, an open door and a friendly welcome made for a great first impression. We immediately fell in love with this quaint shop (maybe 800 sq. ft.). While the place was packed with vintage artifacts, the pieces were beautifully curated and displayed in lovely vignettes. It had a definite museum/art gallery feel to it without being highbrow.  We also loved that all the items had clearly marked prices, which could be easily seen even on items on the top shelves.  And some of the price tags even had “rent me” prices (think movie props, weddings, dinner/cocktail parties).

We also liked the variety of items. If you are interested in vintage suitcases, this is the place for you.  There were also some lovely vintage typewriters, radios and clocks too.  One of the most interesting pieces was a 1880s medicine glass kit consisting of two small beakers (a shot glass-size one and a tiny cylinder one) in a leather case – very cool.   

I personally liked that they had lots of “manly things,” from old baseball gloves to pipes.

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Saskatchewan Connection

Soon we were chatting with Lori Oliphant, Co-owner/Master Picker of the store (the other Co-owner is sister Heather who was combining at the family farm in Saskatchewan). This Saskatchewan connection was evident with the vintage Saskatchewan licence plates and we quickly realized this was a key source of artifacts. 

Lori told us they have been open since the beginning of 2017.  How had I not heard?

She also introduced us to Andrew Holmes, the go-to guy responsible for all of the lovely vignettes. It turns out he has professional window display experience with plans to create a wonderful window display for those wandering the back alley. 

That could be an interesting night walk!

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Last Word

Andrew promised to let us know when the window display is up and also to invite us to one of his vintage tea parties using many of the treasures in the shop and hosted in private homes. That would be very fun.  I hope they serve Lapsang Souchong tea!

For a fun, off-the-beaten-path place to go, we highly recommend “Art of Vintage.” Whether you’re in the market for an interesting piece of furniture, a unique collectable from your past, or an unusual gift for a friend, you may just find it here.  Link: Art of Vintage

It is now on our list of “hidden gem” places to visit regularly.

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Sunday Night R&R

One of the things we love to do on nice summer Sunday night (not sure why even in retirement we are still fixated on the Sunday night as the end of the weekend) is to head to another inner city community and flaneur its streets and alleys. 

Loved these colourful front yard birdhouses.

Loved these colourful front yard birdhouses.

Why do we choose Calgary’s inner city communities? To us they are all in an interesting transition period - new infill homes (some spectacular, some “not so much”) mixed with charming (sometimes tired) older homes. 

We also love the urban surprises that we almost always encounter - could be sculpture on the front lawn, a lovely front garden or a century old vegetable garden in the backyard or maybe a porch swing, a unique door or a folk art mailbox. 

You never know what you might find when you flaneur an older community.

R&R????

Our most recent Sunday night R&R took us to the two of Calgary’s oldest communities – Roxboro (est. 1923) and Rideau Park (est. 1911).  However, you would be hard pressed to find many homes from that period still standing today.  Two of the wealthiest communities in Calgary, most of the homes have been replaced by mega modern mansions – some look like boutique hotels, others are just plain tacky - IMHO. 

New vs Old

New vs Old

Highlight Of The Night

On this 2-hour Sunday night flaneur we were hoping to find some interesting gardens that might inspire us with new ideas for our own garden.  What we found was little is the way of new or different plants or landscaping ideas. We didn’t even see any real exotic planters, which you might expect in an upscale community. I am guessing these communities’ conservative politics extends to its garden design sensibility.  Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was the lack of people anywhere – it was like a ghost town.   

Yes, for the most part we were disappointed by the gardens - except for one in Rideau Park.  It was truly spectacular; there was a dead blossom to be deadheaded or a weed anywhere in the grass. It was truly immaculate.

It was amazing.  We have never seen anything like it in Calgary or any other city for that matter. Located at the corner of Rideau Road and 33 Ave SW. It was the highlight of the night as they say on TSN.

Here are some postcards from our restful and relaxing Sunday Night flaneur of Roxboro & Rideau Park. Yes there were a few surprises and fun finds. 

Hope you enjoy.

This little guy was very friendly and allowed me to get very close and never did fly away. 

This little guy was very friendly and allowed me to get very close and never did fly away. 

This was not a pink flamingo....

This was not a pink flamingo....

Two door knockers?

Two door knockers?

Folk art fun...

Folk art fun...

Dirty laundry?

Dirty laundry?

Every picture tells a story????

Every picture tells a story????

How fun is this?

How fun is this?

Designer mail boxes?

Designer mail boxes?

Highlight Of The Night

Could this really be Calgary?

Could this really be Calgary?

Did I say immaculate?

Did I say immaculate?

Dare I say it again?

Dare I say it again?

No sidewalk, no problem.

No sidewalk, no problem.

Enchanted pathways?

Enchanted pathways?

Perfect hostas

Perfect hostas

Past Perspectives 

How welcoming is this?

How welcoming is this?

Is it just me or does yellow just shout out "cheerfulness." 

Is it just me or does yellow just shout out "cheerfulness." 

A few charmers from the past.

A few charmers from the past.

Fredric Sara brought scouting to Calgary. The Sara Scout Hall built in 1927, was heavily damaged in the 2013 flood, but has been restored. Link: History of Sara Scout Hall 

Fredric Sara brought scouting to Calgary. The Sara Scout Hall built in 1927, was heavily damaged in the 2013 flood, but has been restored. Link: History of Sara Scout Hall 

Street Trees

Calgary's older communities have some amazing trees. It hard to realize that 100 years ago these communities where part of the treeless prairies. 

Calgary's older communities have some amazing trees. It hard to realize that 100 years ago these communities where part of the treeless prairies. 

You can't see the house for the trees.

You can't see the house for the trees.

The perfect grass on this boulevard looked almost artificial. 

The perfect grass on this boulevard looked almost artificial. 

Reflections

Window Reflection I

Window Reflection I

Window Reflection II

Window Reflection II

Mission bridge (1915) over the Elbow River

Mission bridge (1915) over the Elbow River

Reflections from setting sun on the Elbow River

Reflections from setting sun on the Elbow River

Even young adults love their funny rafts.

Even young adults love their funny rafts.

Calgarians sure do love their rivers.

Calgarians sure do love their rivers.

Found this old photo of the Elbow Boulevard Park along the Elbow River on the edge of Rideau Park. This is almost the same spot as the photo above. 

Found this old photo of the Elbow Boulevard Park along the Elbow River on the edge of Rideau Park. This is almost the same spot as the photo above. 

The Oarsman by Robert Spaith.

The Oarsman by Robert Spaith.

Last Word

Next time you are feeling like going for a walk, or want a change of scenery, try exploring a community in your city that you have never explored on haven't explored recently.  It is like a mini-vacation. 

Looking for more information on Calgary's history and guided walks checkout this link to:  Chinook Country Historical Society Calgary Historic Week happens the first week of August each year.  It includes some very interesting guided walks and talks.

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Sunday in Bowness Park

Calgary’s Bowness Park has been a popular place for Calgarians to chill for over a century. 

The 74-acre park along the Bow River at the western edge of the City of Calgary was donated by John Hextall in 1911 - as part of a deal to secure the extension of the streetcar into Bowness Estates which he was developing as an exclusive new suburb.  The park was also conceived to entice Calgarians or those moving to Calgary to live in the new community of Bowness.  It was the Fish Creek or Nose Hill Park of its time.

Sound familiar? 

It is eerily similar to the current push to develop the Green Line today, linking new communities like Livingston and SETON to the City Centre.  It also has parallels to the East Village redevelopment where the River Walk and St. Patrick’s Island redevelopment were built first to entice Calgarians to move back to the community after decades of community decay. 

The Original Bowness Park

Bowness Park was indeed a gem with an outdoor swimming pool (closed in 1959) and lagoon for canoeing and boating.  The lagoon even had an Orthophonic (a phonograph in the middle of the lagoon) that played music which required someone to canoe out to change the records.  It stopped working in 1961.  There was also a large dance pavilion (closed in 1960) and even a carousel, whose home is now Heritage Park. 

It was the quintessential picnic site. Hundreds of picnic tables, some under shelters as well as several playgrounds with swings and teeter-totters.  Camping sites and even cabins that could be rented by the week or month (these were removed in 1946) we available for long stays.  There was even an informal “lovers’ walk” along the lagoon.

The Park was hugely popular with over 25,000 Calgarians visiting on summer weekends. It was so popular 28 streetcars were assigned to the route on weekends offering 15 minutes service from 1913 to 1950. 

Bowness Park Today

Despite the Bow River flood of 2013 which caused extensive damage, the Park has again become one of the gems of Calgary’s City Parks system after extensive clean up and redevelopment the park,

Today, not only are there canoeing and paddle boating in the lagoon, but the Park is popular spot for hundreds of rafters, kayakers and canoers to enter the Bow River for a lovely Sunday day-trip along the Bow River to downtown.

Hundreds of picnic sites (complete with fire pits and BBQs) attract families from all over the city - it is like a meeting of the United Nations.

The modern colourful playground is very popular and loud with kids shouting and squealing with glee.

The redeveloped park also includes the popular mini-train that was introduced to the park in the early ‘50s.

 

Toot Toot!

After being badly damaged in the flood, with silt covering the train from top to bottom, it has been restored. It got a new engine and a new silver, burgundy and yellow paint job modelled after the CP Rail’s luxury passenger train “The Canadian” that began cross-country trips in 1955. 

Seasons restaurant on the lagoon offers fine dining with a charming patio on the water. It has popular weekend brunch menu. As well there is a take-out café for those who prefer to stroll or sit with a coffee and snack. 

And yes, there still is an informal “Lovers’ Walk,” along the creek away from the crowds for those wanting to take a quieter more secluded quiet walk in the park with a special someone.

Sunday  Postcards

Last Word

Bowness Park continues to attract thousands of visitors on a nice Sunday afternoon.   While the weekend attendance numbers don’t match the 25,000 of its heyday years, it is still a vibrant urban playground people of all ages and backgrounds.  Perhaps the numbers are down due to the fact Calgary now has over 5,000 parks – that’s one park for every 250 Calgarians!

PS…The park desperately needs an ice cream vendor. Packaged, commercial frozen treats on a stick just don’t cut it.

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Marda Loop Madness?

If you haven’t been to Marda Loop for awhile, you will hardly recognize it.  Like downtown Calgary in the late ‘70s, construction is seemingly happening on every corner. 

While some might not like all the gentrification that comes with all the new construction, Calgary historian Harry Sanders, a long time resident of Marda Loop is “delighted with the expansion of the business district. I like the densification in principle, but I'm always sorry to see old houses disappear. Mine is from 1950, and it's getting to be a rare oddity! Living in a hilly neighbourhood with retaining walls made from fieldstone and recycled bits of concrete make for a delightful neighbourhood with many surprises, including some beautiful and eclectic gardens.”

Marda Loop 101

The origin of Marda Loop’s name is two-fold.  It references the 490-seat Marda Theatre at the corner of 33rd Ave and 21st Street SW (later, the Odeon) that opened in 1953, closed in 1988 and demolished in 1990. It also pays tribute to the streetcar line that ran along 33rd Ave SW and “looped” back at 24th St (now Crowchild Trail.)

The completion of the hugely successful 161-acre Garrison Woods development by Canada Lands in 2004 was a turning point for Marda Loop.  This master planned community pioneered new urban planning principles for more diversity and density for inner city communities with 1,600 homes (including extensive row housing, small condos and luxury homes on small lots), as well as new retail including a modern Safeway store was hugely successful. 

Since then, new infill homes have become commonplace in the neighbouring Altadore and South Calgary communities while the retail along 33rd and 34th Avenues SW has been evolving with the community’s changing demographics.

Then in 2010, Marda Loop got its first real mixed-use urban building when Cidex Homes and Ronmor teamed up to build the six-storey Treo at Marda Loop at the corner of 33rd Ave and 20th St. SW. It consisted of ground floor retail, one floor of offices and four floors of condos above that.  The street retail was anchored by a Shoppers Drug Mart and a Phil & Sebastian flagship café.

Recently Completed

Garrison Corner is a three-storey retail/office building at the NW corner of 34th Ave and 22nd St SW withDAVIDsTEA, Village Ice Cream and COBS Bread as street anchors with level a daycare and offices above.  

At the NE corner of 33rd Ave and 20th St SW, the Odeon, has only recently been completed with Blush Lane as its anchor street tenant and offices above. 

Today, Marda Loop has 130 shops, boutiques, restaurants and professional services –  with more to come.

Under Construction

A block east of the Odeon Avenue, 33 by Sarina Homes is under construction at the corner of 33rd Ave and 19th St SW.  It will add 36 flats and lofts geared to young professionals, as well as new street level retail.

Just a block south of Avenue 33 will be Infinity at Marda Loop, a 38-unit condo project by the SNR Group. In addition to the condos, it will include multi-tenant ground floor retail anchored by Good Earth Café.Last but not least, Rockwood Custom Homes broke ground in May for its 19 uber-luxury Residences of King Edward project at the King Edward School site along 17th St. SW between 29th and 30th Aves SW.  This Dan Jenkins’ designed project, with its high-end finishes and larger units (1,400 to 3,400 sq.ft.), will definitely appeal to empty nester.Speaking of the historic sandstone King Edward School, it is nearing its completion as cSpace, a creative hub with studios and workspaces for artists and other creative types as well as a 150-seat theatre.

Last Word

While some will see all the construction in Marda Loop and say, “stop the madness,” it always amazes me how long it actually takes to revitalize a community. 

You can walk along 33rd Avenue (i.e. Main Street Marda Loop) today and still find pre-1950s cottages homes, ‘60s single storey suburban retail with surface parking at the front and small walk-up apartment blocks. 

One block over, on 34th Avenue just east of 20th Avenue, is a lovely stretch of small, brightly painted cottage homes that have been converted to retail.

When I explored Marda Loop recently, I immediately thought of the late Jane Jacobs, renowned North American community activist who said, “community revitalization should be evolutionary, not revolutionary.” 

I think she would be pleased with how Marda Loop is evolving.

 

If you want to check out what is happening for yourself, a good time might be this year’s Marda Gras Street Festival on Sunday August 13 from 10 am to 5 pm.  This year marks its 33rd year making it Calgary’s oldest street festival. And, unlike the infinitely more famous New Orleans Mardi Gras, this is a fun family-oriented street festival. 

Leipzig's City Centre is mind-boggling!

It is mind boggling how Leipzig, German (population 580,000) fits so much into its tiny City Centre – just 800 meters by 800 meters (or eight fields by eight football fields).

Leipzig Fun

The entire City Centre, about half the size of Calgary’s East Village, is home to six major museums, two major concert halls, two historic churches, five major department stores, three large shopping malls, University of Leipzig City Center campus, two large plazas (actively programmed with farmers' markets and events), a few small park spaces and a small skatepark to boot.

 

In addition, hundreds of restaurants - many with huge patios, perfect for people watching - and dozens of five and six-storey mixed-use buildings. 

It also home to the second largest train station in Germany, with 19 platforms housed in six iron train sheds, a multi-level concourse with towering stone arches, and a 298-metre long facade.

All of this and yet there is only one highrise - a 36-storey office tower. How could this be?

 

Pedestrian Paradise

One of the things you first notice when exploring Leipzig’s City Centre is there are no buses, trains and only a few cars.  Even bikes are walked more than ridden. 

That is because there is a major ring road around City Centre for cars, trams and buses. Entrances to parkades are from this ring road; all transit users get off on the edge of the City Centre and walk in. There are no surface parking lots, no street parking taking up valuable space anywhere in the City Centre.  Deliveries all seem to happen in a few hours before the stores and museums open.

Also buildings are not set back from the street, meaning no useless decorative green spaces or plazas in front of buildings and no wasted space between buildings as they are all attached to each other or the building encompasses the entire block.

Classical Music Paradise

Leipzig has perhaps one of the richest musical histories of any city in the world.  The Gewandhaus Orchestra dates back to 1743 when sixteen merchants decided Leipzig needed an orchestra. Today it plays to an audience of 500,000 per year. 

The Opera House is the third oldest in Europe and is linked to several famous composers – Wagner, Telemann, Marschner, Lortzing and Mahler. The St. Thomas Church is linked to Bach and the renowned St. Thomas Boys’ Choir.  

It is not surprising Leipzig has perhaps one of the most unique urban trails in the world.  The “Leipzig Music Trail” is a 5 km signposted route connecting 20+ sites of relevance to the city’s 500 years of musical history.  There is even an audio guide allowing you to listen to audio clips from the composers as you arrive at houses of Mendelssohn or Schumann or Bach at the St. Thomas Church.

While Calgary has the wonderful new National Music Centre, there is really no link between it’s collection and the history of Calgary.

Architectural Paradise

While Leipzig is one of the oldest cities in Europe, (it was a major trading center in Roman Times), it has also embraced new architecture. 

Within just a few blocks you can see lovely examples of Baroque and Art Nouveau buildings, side by side with modern ones.

One of the most unique urban design features of the City Centre are its 24 historic mid-block Hofs, i.e. wide, mid-block passageways full of shops, cafes and restaurants that link streets.

The most famous Hof is the Madler-Passage with its luxury shops, plush blue carpet and historic Auerbachs Keller restaurant (where famous German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe used to hang out).  

 

The Barthel Hof is one of the city’s most notable buildings and the last remaining trade court from the trade fair period of the 18th century.

In the interior courtyard, the cranes used to hoist goods up to the storage rooms are still visible as is a Renaissance bay window from 1532.  

Exploring the Hofs is a lovely walk back in time. There is even a festival in September celebrating the history of the Hofs.

FYI: The map of the Hofs looks amazingly similar to a map of Calgary’s +15 walkways. Should Calgary start thinking about a +15 Winter Festival? Perhaps in 500 years, if we embrace our +15s, they too will become a tourist attraction.

While Leipzig is blessed with many historic buildings, there are also several noteworthy modern buildings.  The 1972 City-Hochhaus tower designed by Hermann Henselmann, East Germany’s most famous architect, resembles a huge open book. 

There is also the monolithic 40 meter high “glass cube” designed by Hufnagel Puetz Rafaelian architects for the Museum of Fine Arts, which unfortunately will be hidden by four L-shaped buildings around it.

Across from the Hauptbahnhof, sits the uber-modern Hofe am Bruhl or “Tin Can” as some call it because of its aluminum façade. Designed by Gruntuch Ernst Architects, this huge North American-style shopping center, with two floors of parking above and residential floor at the top, in fact has four different facades that reflect the history of the buildings that were there before. Inside the design creates a sense of in passageways and arcades that pay homage to the past.

In the foreground is the popular skatepark, which is combined with a small plaza that is used for markets and other events and in the background is the "Tin Can" shopping centre. This was one of the few times the area wasn't bustling with people.

In the foreground is the popular skatepark, which is combined with a small plaza that is used for markets and other events and in the background is the "Tin Can" shopping centre. This was one of the few times the area wasn't bustling with people.

The  Paulinum  at the  University of Leipzig  stands where the  Paulinerkirche  church stood until 1968, when it was unnecessarily torn down by the communist regime of  East Germany . 

The Paulinum at the University of Leipzig stands where the Paulinerkirche church stood until 1968, when it was unnecessarily torn down by the communist regime of East Germany

Lessons Learned

Calgary has a long way to go before its City Centre becomes tourist destination like Leipzig.  Essential to attracting urban tourist is having a history where famous people have lived and worked and where important world events have happen.

FYI:   Leipzig’s City Centre is where Martin Luther Reformation happened and where the Monday Demonstration happened in 1989 that led to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. Leipzig has an amazingly rich history.

Visiting Leipzig made me reflect on Calgary’s 100+ history - what really distinguished, renowned, influential individuals have lived or worked here and what world-changing initiatives or events have originated here. I couldn’t think of any.

When visiting cities like Leipzig, I am reminded of how young Calgary is.  And how it takes centuries to create great cities and not every city becomes great.

If you go:

We stayed at Motel One which has two locations in Leipzig's City Centre.  Motel One has modern rooms with colourful decor. The staff and lobby were very welcoming and we especially loved the lively and tasty breakfasts, in the very contemporary lounge with huge windows over-looking the street.  Link: Motel One

Postcards from the OTHER London

The top tier cities (London, New York, Paris, Rome, Tokyo) get all the attention when it comes to travel blogs.  But we love to explore cities that are off the radar – like Boise, Idaho, Missoula, Montana and Nelson, British Columbia.

Recently we found ourselves in London, Ontario with a couple of hours to kill on a Sunday morning so we decided of (course) to check out their downtown.  We were pleasantly surprised at by the architecture (old and new), the shop windows, the downtown arena and farmers’ market.

One of our early discoveries in downtown London was this DEEP dish apple pie and a BIG smile in the window of Billy's Downtown Deli.  Did we or didn't we have a piece?  You will find out if you read this blog. 

One of our early discoveries in downtown London was this DEEP dish apple pie and a BIG smile in the window of Billy's Downtown Deli.  Did we or didn't we have a piece?  You will find out if you read this blog. 

London at a glance

London, located halfway between Toronto and Detroit, was first settled in the early 1800s. Today it is the 11th largest city in Canada with a metropolitan population of 474,786.  It is home to the University of Western Ontario, one of Canada’s leading universities.

Yes, London is named after London, England and no surprise the river that runs through the city is called the Thames. The original settlers - mostly British - intended the city to become the capital of Upper Canada (now Ontario), however, that honour ultimately went to Fort York (now known as Toronto.)

The City has a rich corporate history.  Carling (1840) and Labatt (1847) breweries were founded there, as was Canada Trust (1864), London Life Insurance Company (1874), Imperial Oil (1880) and Club House Foods (1883).

Link: London History

Last Word

These postcards from the OTHER London, will hopefully entice you to explore downtown London the next time you are in the area.

London is also know as the Forest City.  Ironically it was the dozens of brightly coloured metal trees in downtown that caught our attention. 

London is also know as the Forest City.  Ironically it was the dozens of brightly coloured metal trees in downtown that caught our attention. 

I am sucker for humour. 

I am sucker for humour. 

Loved the old and new contrast in the downtown architecture.  

Loved the old and new contrast in the downtown architecture.  

This might well be the best example of brutalist architecture in Canada. Link: Brutalist Architecture 

This might well be the best example of brutalist architecture in Canada. Link: Brutalist Architecture 

London's downtown Federal Building is a lovely example of Art Deco architecture. 

London's downtown Federal Building is a lovely example of Art Deco architecture. 

Great downtowns have great churches, London has at least two. 

Great downtowns have great churches, London has at least two. 

Loved this whimsical parklet with the twisted bench and seats. Nice synergy between public art and urban design. 

Loved this whimsical parklet with the twisted bench and seats. Nice synergy between public art and urban design. 

Every downtown needs a diner and a fast bike. 

Every downtown needs a diner and a fast bike. 

Great downtowns have great food and cold beer.  Who could ask for anything more?

Great downtowns have great food and cold beer.  Who could ask for anything more?

With its brewery history it is not surprising that downtown London has a brew pub.  Gotta love the name - tres Canadian. 

With its brewery history it is not surprising that downtown London has a brew pub.  Gotta love the name - tres Canadian. 

How fun is this window? 

How fun is this window? 

Every downtown needs a rainbow cross walk. 

Every downtown needs a rainbow cross walk. 

Who knew London had their own Music Hall of Fame?

Who knew London had their own Music Hall of Fame?

A little bit of New York City in London. 

A little bit of New York City in London. 

Another whimsical window. 

Another whimsical window. 

Yes we did go back to Billy's for lunch and a piece of pie. It was as good as it looks. 

Yes we did go back to Billy's for lunch and a piece of pie. It was as good as it looks. 

Victoria Park's Time To Shine Again!

Given all the brouhaha over the past few weeks about the potential of East Victoria Park now being the site of the Calgary’s new arena (whoops, I should say event centre) I thought it would be interesting to look at the past and future of Victoria Park (i.e. the area from the Elbow River to 4th St SW and from 17th Ave SW to the CPR tracks including Stampede Park).

Victoria Park is one of Calgary's oldest communities.  Link: Victoria Park Ruins

Victoria Park is one of Calgary's oldest communities.  Link: Victoria Park Ruins

History 101

Victoria Park is the one of Calgary’s oldest residential communities established as East Ward in the 1880s.  In 1889, the Agricultural Society of Calgary purchased 94 acres from the federal government, for their annual agricultural fair. They christened the community “Victoria Park” after Queen Victoria.

Between 1901 and 1911, Calgary’s population grew from 4,000 to 44,000 with 20% of that growth in Victoria Park.  From 1920 to 1940, many of the early Victoria Park residents, having made their fortunes moved out and their large homes were converted to short-term low income housing for temporary and migrant workers. 

Starting in the 1940s, the area became less residential and more light industrial and commercial as the CPR corridor became increasingly more freight-oriented. Increased car ownership also resulted in Calgarians being able to live further out from the City Centre.

Jump to 1968 when City Council approved the Stampede Park expansion to 14th Avenue which resulted in decreased property values, further depopulation and demolition of houses for surface parking. This continued until 1998 when all remaining property owners agreed to sell.

The Round Up Centre opened in 1981 and was expanded and rebranded the BMO Centre in 2007.   In 1983, the Saddledome opened replacing the Corral (opened in 1950) as he Calgary’s major arena and home the NHLs Calgary Flames. 

In 2003, the communities of Victoria Park and neighbouring Connaught were amalgamated and named the Beltline. Starting in 2005, new condo development commenced especially near the Stampede LRT Station and along 1st Street SW.  In 2006 City Council approved the Beltline Area Redevelopment Plan, a key tool in revitalization of all of the land south of the CPR railway tracks to 17th Avenue, from the Elbow River to 14th St. SW.

Proposed site of new arena is just a block north of the existing Saddledome and just east of the BMO Centre.  To the east of the site is the Stampede's Youth Campus which is under construction. 

Proposed site of new arena is just a block north of the existing Saddledome and just east of the BMO Centre.  To the east of the site is the Stampede's Youth Campus which is under construction. 

East Victoria Park

I have always thought East Victoria Park (EVP) was all of the land east of Centre Street, logical as it bisects the community in half and there is a very different urban vibe east of Centre Street vs west.  Wrong.  Turns out there are seven character districts (see map) in Victoria Park as identified in the 151-page Victoria Park Density and Diversity Planning and Policy Guide published in 2013 (aka Everything you wanted to know about Victoria Park but were afraid to ask).

However, for the purposes of current Victoria Park master planning I am told EVP is all of the land east of 4th St SE to the Elbow River, from the 10th Avenue 10 to 14th Avenue SE.

SHED

The new arena/event center would be synergistic with the Stampede’s plans for a mega expansion of the nearby BMO Center into a multi-purpose event centre for trade shows, conventions and other events.

The proposed Green Line LRT will pass through EVP along 12th Avenue with a station at 4th St SE that will serve EVP, Stampede Park and East Village.  This new station would be specifically designed to accommodate the traffic of major events in the new arena and Stampede Park.

Together EVP and Stampede Park would become what, in the urban planning world, is called a SHED – Sports Hospitality Entertainment District.   Harry Hiller, urban sociologist at the University of Calgary warns, “In order for a SHED to work, it will need a mix of uses – including residential, retail and restaurants - to create a more pedestrian-friendly streetscape.”  

A new multi-purpose arena combined with an expanded BMO Centre would achieve the critical mass and diversity of events year-round to attract one or more hotels, as well as cafes, bistros, restaurants, pubs and bars has been the Stampede’s concept for the Stampede Trail since the late ‘90s.

Arriva and Guardian condo towers were part of an ambitious plan for revitalization of East Victoria Park ten years ago. The Stampede Park Expansion & Development sign has been at the corner of 4th Street and 12th Ave SE for over 15 years.

Arriva and Guardian condo towers were part of an ambitious plan for revitalization of East Victoria Park ten years ago. The Stampede Park Expansion & Development sign has been at the corner of 4th Street and 12th Ave SE for over 15 years.

Stampede Park's Youth Campus is currently under construction. 

Stampede Park's Youth Campus is currently under construction. 

Residential Catalyst

The transformation of EVP into a SHED should be the catalyst needed to continue Victoria Park’s early 21st century residential development. Keynote, Sasso, Vetro, Alura and Nuera condos at Stampede Station could soon be surrounded by more condos, as living near event centres is very popular with young professionals and empty nesters, the two target markets for urban living in Calgary.

In addition, the new arena and BMO expansion should make Lamp Development’s Orchard two tower condo project next to the Victoria Park LRT Station at 4th St SE viable.  And it could also be just the impetus Remington needs to dust off their plans for a major mixed-use mid-rise development on their land just to the north of the arena and the 4th Street SE Station.

Residents in Arriva and Guardian condos should also be excited as one of the reasons for moving there was to be within walking distance to all of the events at the Saddledome and Stampede Park.

The parking lots west of Stampede Station were considered an ideal site for a major convention centre 30 years ago.  Eventually several condos and office buildings were constructed close by, but the land next to the Station is still surface parking lot.

The parking lots west of Stampede Station were considered an ideal site for a major convention centre 30 years ago.  Eventually several condos and office buildings were constructed close by, but the land next to the Station is still surface parking lot.

Synergy

Unlike the CalgaryNext proposal for West Village, the synergistic development of a multi-purpose arena and the expansion of the Stampede’s BMO Centre is symbiotic with the City of Calgary’s plans for the revitalization of Calgary’s City Centre east of Centre Street.  There is also a high probability it would be the catalyst for numerous private sector projects that would significantly increase the area’s tax based by converting ugly surface parking lots into tax-paying buildings.

BMO Centre is a well used trade show facility, however, if it is going to become a successful convention centre it will need to have adequate hotel, restaurant, pub, bars, lounges and shop amenities.  The pedestrian link to downtown and 17th Ave will also have to be significantly improved. 

BMO Centre is a well used trade show facility, however, if it is going to become a successful convention centre it will need to have adequate hotel, restaurant, pub, bars, lounges and shop amenities.  The pedestrian link to downtown and 17th Ave will also have to be significantly improved. 

Last Word

David Low, Executive Director of the Victoria Park BIA (Business Improvement District) says, “EVP is posed to coherently integrate three giant infrastructure projects, the Green Line Station, Arena and BMO Centre expansion to create a world class entertainment destination. The local business community will welcome the new developments as Victoria Park has a 100+ year history of hosting major events.” 

How refreshing to have a community welcoming new development rather than fighting it. It is Victoria Park’s time to shine once again as it did early in the 20th century!

Note: This blog was originally published in the Calgary Herald, on Saturday May 13, 2017 in the New Condos section. 

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Calgary's SUPERTRAIN: Super Fun For Everyone!

I think I found train heaven….

One of the highlights of the show was the model based on downtown Calgary made of lego.  I especially loved the use of colour.  The narratives and sense of humour in the models was outstanding.  Be sure to checkout the strange vignette section later in this blog.

One of the highlights of the show was the model based on downtown Calgary made of lego.  I especially loved the use of colour.  The narratives and sense of humour in the models was outstanding.  Be sure to checkout the strange vignette section later in this blog.

Others!

One of the great things about living in a city are the numerous opportunities to learn more about what makes others tick. And the hobbies and interests of others intrigue me – be they cosplay, gardening, quilting, orchids, bingos, skateboarding or in this case, those who bring their trains trains out of their basements to share with others.

For years, I have seen the banners on the overhead bridges promoting an annual Calgary Train Show but never attended – until this year.

An added bonus was it was being held at the Genesis Centre in the far northeast one of Calgary’s growing number of mega community centres (with multiple arenas, gyms, meeting rooms, as well as a YMCA and Calgary Public Library), which I have never been to.

The Bow Tower with the Happy Head in place of ghost-like Wonderland sculpture was a fun surprise!

The Bow Tower with the Happy Head in place of ghost-like Wonderland sculpture was a fun surprise!

Train Heaven

We (I have a three year old friend who loves trains and thought it would be fun to go with him and his Dad) arrived shortly after it opened on Sunday morning at 10 am to find the parking lot already almost full. 

There was a mini three-car CPR train next to the parking lot for kids to play on and for photos - definitely, a good first impression. As did the many food trucks lining the grand sidewalk to the Centre.

Admission was quick and easy - kids under 15 are free; adults $15. 

A few steps and you are looking down into a vast multiple arena expanse that has been magically transformed into train heaven – whether you love to play with trains, learn about Canada train history, find out more about unique train trip opportunities, create your own basement train heaven, or even just people watch.

The 100+ exhibitors were very friendly and knowledgeable, willing to share information about their model train experiences.  There were lots of new and vintage train sets to purchase along with hands-on opportunities to learn how to construct buildings, trees and other elements to create your own fun vignettes.  Did you know,  you can download templates for miniature life-like buildings for only a few dollars?  There were lots of great tips being shared.

Here are some SUPERTRAIN postcards?

This was only half of the displays and exhibitions. 

This was only half of the displays and exhibitions. 

Anxiously awaiting the arrival of the next train. 

Anxiously awaiting the arrival of the next train. 

This is a work in progress, started 10 years ago by Ross and Scott Tyler who are now 17 and 15 years old respectively. 

This is a work in progress, started 10 years ago by Ross and Scott Tyler who are now 17 and 15 years old respectively. 

It was fun to learn about all of the railway adventures and museums in Western Canada.

It was fun to learn about all of the railway adventures and museums in Western Canada.

Just a few of the railway artifacts available. 

Just a few of the railway artifacts available. 

This gentleman was demonstrating how the telegraph worked. 

This gentleman was demonstrating how the telegraph worked. 

Big kids in a candy store? 

Big kids in a candy store? 

Model building demonstration. 

Model building demonstration. 

All of the buildings in this model were built using templates downloaded from the internet. 

All of the buildings in this model were built using templates downloaded from the internet. 

Strange Vignettes

For those with a keen eye, the best surprise of the event for me was the subtle - and not so subtle - sense of humour of the vignettes the model railroad builders have created.  

Who says grumpy old guys (yes, it seems to be mostly an old men’s club, just like quilting is a women’s club) don’t have a sense of humour?

For those who don't know, K D Lang is a famous Alberta singer songwriter and an advocate for not eating meat. 

For those who don't know, K D Lang is a famous Alberta singer songwriter and an advocate for not eating meat. 

What at first looks like an everyday busy street scene has nude sunbathers on the rooftop, as well as two guys mooning the neighbours.  

What at first looks like an everyday busy street scene has nude sunbathers on the rooftop, as well as two guys mooning the neighbours.  

This search is happening at a US/Mexican boarder crossing, while next to them immigrates are crawling under the fence (see next photo).  

This search is happening at a US/Mexican boarder crossing, while next to them immigrates are crawling under the fence (see next photo).  

Another street scene -  look closely and you will see police shouting at people at the Transit Hotel and what looks like ladies of the night on the front porch of the hotel. 

Another street scene -  look closely and you will see police shouting at people at the Transit Hotel and what looks like ladies of the night on the front porch of the hotel. 

Many of the vignettes seem to deal with crashes.  Boys will be boys?

Many of the vignettes seem to deal with crashes.  Boys will be boys?

Look carefully and you will see the cafe is on fire and someone is being taken to the ambulance. There is more rooftop activity and of course the "Jesus Saves" sign. 

Look carefully and you will see the cafe is on fire and someone is being taken to the ambulance. There is more rooftop activity and of course the "Jesus Saves" sign. 

You could easily miss this rescue mission as this was part of a huge display.  Note the rock climbers on the left as well as the rescue taking place.  

You could easily miss this rescue mission as this was part of a huge display.  Note the rock climbers on the left as well as the rescue taking place.  

The attention to detail and the narrative in the displays was amazing. 

The attention to detail and the narrative in the displays was amazing. 

Loved the slam dunk in this vignette. 

Loved the slam dunk in this vignette. 

This maze had the smallest people I have ever seen in a model.  I couldn't help but wonder if the designers of this model making a statement about modern life? 

This maze had the smallest people I have ever seen in a model.  I couldn't help but wonder if the designers of this model making a statement about modern life? 

SUPERTRAIN History (from website)

SUPERTRAIN is presented by the Calgary Model Railway Society (CMRS). CMRS has almost 400 members from Calgary and area who share an interest in the hobby of Model Railroading, and a desire to showcase the hobby to the public.

Organized model railroading in Calgary goes back to 1934, when the first club, Calgary Model Trainmen, was started. CMT continues today, and over the years has spawned dozens of other groups and clubs. Throughout the years the various clubs held their own shows and exhibits. In 1994, several of these clubs decided to work together to put on a major Model Railroad Show for the public.

The first model train show to use the name SUPERTRAIN was held in March 1995 at Mewata Armouries, featuring 28 displays and exhibits. By 1999, SUPERTRAIN had outgrown Mewata, and a new venue in the Big Four Building at the Stampede Grounds became home for the show. By this time, SUPERTRAIN had become an annual event on Family Day Weekend, and as many as 14,000 people attended over the two day show.

Today SUPERTRAIN has become Canada's biggest and best annual train show. If you are interested in becoming a member of the Calgary Model Railway Society.

Visit them at www.calgarymodelrailway.ca

Last Word 

SUPERTRAIN is just one of many fun festivals and events that happen almost continuously in larger cities.  In just the past week, alone film buffs got to enjoy CUFF (Calgary Underground Film Festival), pet lovers had Calgary Pet Expo and train fanatics had the SUPERTRAIN.

Later this week, 100,000 costume lovers will invade Stampede Park for Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo (April 27 to 30), as well as the colourful and playful Parade of Wonders happens on Friday, April 28th from Eau Claire to Olympic Plaza. And the Calgary Horticultural Society's Garden Show happens at Spruce Meadows this weekend. 

Gotta love the quirkiness of urban living!

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Berlin Wall Artifact: Best Flaneur Find Ever?

We were heading to the East Side Gallery where there is 1.5 km of the Berlin Wall still intact. It has been a canvas for street artists since 1989 when the Wall was torn down, but that is another story. 

As we were flaneuring our way to the Gallery, we saw a magnificent red brick church and noticed a sandwich board outside the front doors and thought it might be open so headed over to check it out. It was and so we decided to step inside.

Hidden Gem

Once I stopped looking up, I noticed some display cabinets with small artifact looking objects inside.  Indeed, they were small fragments of the Berlin Wall with some of the tagging graffiti on them, accompanied by photos of the wall where they were from. 

Then I noticed a Euro sign. Could they be for sale?  There were a few guys hanging around the vestibule, but they couldn't speak English. Fortunately, they were keen to find someone to help us and yes indeed they were for sale. 

The wall fragments came in three sizes - small medium and large. Just like t-shirts. 

We debated the logic of buying a piece of Berlin Wall, thinking the small pieces were too small and the larger pieces too heavy to haul back. But in the end, we became a proud owner of a piece of the Berlin Wall complete with a photo of where it came from on the wall and letter of authenticity or at least that is what they told us it was. 

From then on we looked at other slabs and pieces of the Berlin Wall that are scattered throughout the city to see how the concrete composition of our artifact compared.  They all looked exactly like the piece we have.  

Guess we will just have to be believers. 

St. Thomas Kirche Church 101

The church was built between 1865 and 1869 by architect Friedrich Alder.  At the time of its completion, it was the biggest church in Berlin with 3,000 seats.  It is designed in the form of a Latin Cross, with a 56 m dome and two 48 m towers facing the Mariannenplatz. 

The eastern half of the church was destroyed in an air raid on November 22, 1942, and all of the interior furnishings were completely lost.  The façade has been restored to the original state but the interior has not. 

The Berlin Wall had a significant impact on the church as it divided the congregation.

Last Word

I carried my piece of the Berlin Wall home in my carry-on luggage, but I almost lost it in Dublin. Security wanted to check my bag and had to double check if it was OK to have it in my carry on luggage.  Germany security had no issues.

The Berlin Wall will add a new dimension to my collection of flaneur finds.

Berlin Cemetery: Etchings & Cafe

It is the classic example of how as a tourist you do things you never do at home.  In Calgary we have often said we should take an afternoon and explore one of our inner city cemeteries.  We have even threatened to meet up with friends and do one of the guided tours. But alas, we have never done it. 

Luisenstadtischer Friedhof

Early on in our wandering of the streets of Berlin's Kreuzberg district, we discovered what looked like a lovely cemetery.  We quickly agreed it would be a great place to flaneur on a nice day when we wanted some solitude from the animated streets and plazas. We also noted there was a charming cafe where we could have a coffee and cake - something that would become a become a daily ritual.  

Sure enough, 10 days later on a nice sunny morning, we headed back to the what we eventually figured out was not only a failed vineyard but four cemeteries. 

We pretty much had the place to ourselves except for the chirping birds and the occasional cute red squirrel.

The Etchings

The light was amazing as the huge trees had not yet leafed out. It created a heavenly glow on the graves, some of which have been etched by the elements for over 100 years.  Others had a lovely green patina from the moist Berlin winters.

I immediately switched the camera to black & white mode to create what I hoped would be some very intense and dramatic images.    

The Shadows

RRP...

Cafe Strauss is a lovely spot to relax, reflect and ponder. I couldn't help but ponder what it must have been like for artists living in Berlin 50 or 100 years ago.  I wondered about how cities shape artists and artists shape cities and why are some cities more attractive to artists than others.  What makes Berlin so attractive to young artists today?  Is it in the city's DNA? Why is Berlin a haven for artist and not Winnipeg, Edmonton or Hamilton?

More Cafe Strauss Info: I Ate My Cake In A German Cemetery 

Last Word

I remember going (being dragged) to cemeteries when I was young to visit the graves of grandparents, but I wonder if anyone does that anymore.

Do cemeteries have any relevance in contemporary life? Compared to previous generations, are we more focused on the future, rather than the past? Are we too focused on the future?  What role have cemeteries played in fostering a sense of family, a sense of continuity and a respect for the past?

Berlin makes you think!

While some love to explore the museums and art galleries of Berlin (there are 175 of them) after 18 days I am still fascinated by the everyday life of the streets of Berlin.  To me the street seem more authentic less contrived than museums. 

And, yes I am definitely going to flaneur Calgary's cemeteries this spring or summer or fall. 

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