Postcards From Saskatoon: Public Art Capital of the Prairies?

We recently spent an extended weekend in Saskatoon and were most impressed by the public art that was seemingly everywhere from street art to murals, from bike racks to art parks and lots in between.

Check out these postcards and see if you agree!

"Art imitates life" or is it the other way around.  I love how these girls were inspired to climb and play with this piece by Saskatchewan artist William Epp titled "Tribute to Youth" created in 1989.  Public art should engage the public. 

"Art imitates life" or is it the other way around.  I love how these girls were inspired to climb and play with this piece by Saskatchewan artist William Epp titled "Tribute to Youth" created in 1989.  Public art should engage the public. 

Making A Statement 

I was gobsmacked by this nine storey tall mural on the side of the First Nations Bank building in downtown Saskatoon.      The mural was painted by Saskatchewan artist Emmanuel Jarus. I loved the tenderness that is depicted in such a large work.  While the child is obviously of indigenous descent, the parents are more ambiguous which allows for different interpretations.     Is it about new beginnings? Is it about the importance of family? Is is about love? Is it about dependence? Is it a contemporary interpretation of the "mother and child" image that has been part of painting history for centuries.   

I was gobsmacked by this nine storey tall mural on the side of the First Nations Bank building in downtown Saskatoon. 

The mural was painted by Saskatchewan artist Emmanuel Jarus. I loved the tenderness that is depicted in such a large work.  While the child is obviously of indigenous descent, the parents are more ambiguous which allows for different interpretations.

Is it about new beginnings? Is it about the importance of family? Is is about love? Is it about dependence? Is it a contemporary interpretation of the "mother and child" image that has been part of painting history for centuries.  

I think it is also very fitting that the piece is on the side of the First Nations Bank building given its First Nation references.  The red ribbon in the mother's hair is meant to commemorate missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.    Note: The piece is part of the City of Saskatoon's Placemaker program for public art.  It cost $15,000.  Yes this is a real family from the Yellow Quill First Nation, 195 km east of Saskatoon. 

I think it is also very fitting that the piece is on the side of the First Nations Bank building given its First Nation references.  The red ribbon in the mother's hair is meant to commemorate missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.

Note: The piece is part of the City of Saskatoon's Placemaker program for public art.  It cost $15,000.  Yes this is a real family from the Yellow Quill First Nation, 195 km east of Saskatoon. 

The City Centre Church mural in Riversdale also captured my attention. Too often street art is more decorative with little in the way of an artist's statement.      In this case the imagery is very hard hitting, with references to the struggles of justice, alcohol and religion faced by indigenous people past and present.     There is a very strong presence in Saskatoon of indigenous people are using contemporary art genres to express their plight.  

The City Centre Church mural in Riversdale also captured my attention. Too often street art is more decorative with little in the way of an artist's statement. 

In this case the imagery is very hard hitting, with references to the struggles of justice, alcohol and religion faced by indigenous people past and present.

There is a very strong presence in Saskatoon of indigenous people are using contemporary art genres to express their plight.  

I loved clever hybridization of graffiti painting with realism in this mural.  

I loved clever hybridization of graffiti painting with realism in this mural.  

The impact of this mural is amplified by the fact the Ukrainian Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral is located across the street.

The impact of this mural is amplified by the fact the Ukrainian Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral is located across the street.

Signature Public Art 

Every city has a signature piece of art, in Saskatoon that is probably Doug Bentham's "Unfurl"  located in the middle of a busy intersection at the west side of the University Bridge.  One of the benchmarks of a good piece of art is that people still like it and are talking about it 10+ years later. 

In a recent Saskatoon StarPhoenix piece, Bentham notes people still stop and talk to him about the piece (yes, Bentham lives just outside of Saskatoon) and tell him how much they like the piece and how it changes with the weather.  He was also quoted as saying "Unfurled" taught him "it's OK to consider the public when conceiving a sculpture."  

"Unfurled" is locate in the middle of an intersection, not exactly the best site for the public to view the artwork.  I had to dodge a few cars to get to the base of the piece where the information panel is located. 

"Unfurled" is locate in the middle of an intersection, not exactly the best site for the public to view the artwork.  I had to dodge a few cars to get to the base of the piece where the information panel is located. 

From this angle is looks a bit like a pelican which ironically are found in the Saskatchewan river just a few feet away.  

From this angle is looks a bit like a pelican which ironically are found in the Saskatchewan river just a few feet away.  

Move just a few feet and it looks like scissors and thread.  I love ambiguous art that has reference to reality, but lets the viewer interpret the piece in infinite ways.   

Move just a few feet and it looks like scissors and thread.  I love ambiguous art that has reference to reality, but lets the viewer interpret the piece in infinite ways.  

University of Saskatchewan Art Park 

Hidden away on the edge of the University of Saskatchewan campus is an artpark. Head to the Diefenbaker Centre (FYI the Centre's facade is in poor shape, and the plants next to his grave are all dead - shame on whoever is responsible) and then go towards the river and you will find an unmarked art park near the pathway.  

Hidden away on the edge of the University of Saskatchewan campus is an artpark. Head to the Diefenbaker Centre (FYI the Centre's facade is in poor shape, and the plants next to his grave are all dead - shame on whoever is responsible) and then go towards the river and you will find an unmarked art park near the pathway.  

Public art should be made to climb on. 

Public art should be made to climb on. 

Most of the art in UofS's sculpture park has no didactic information i.e. name of artist, title, date etc.  It looks like anyone can just install their art here.  While the grass has been cut, some whipper snippering around at the base of the pieces is badly needed.   Turns out it is called the U of S sculpture garden and it was founded in 1993 as part of a sculpture symposium.  It could also use some curatorial direction as some of the pieces look pretty amateurish.  

Most of the art in UofS's sculpture park has no didactic information i.e. name of artist, title, date etc.  It looks like anyone can just install their art here.  While the grass has been cut, some whipper snippering around at the base of the pieces is badly needed. 

Turns out it is called the U of S sculpture garden and it was founded in 1993 as part of a sculpture symposium.  It could also use some curatorial direction as some of the pieces look pretty amateurish.  

The University of Saskatchewan campus has public art scattered throughout the campus, however much of it has no information on who is the artist, title of the work or date .  I later figured out this piece is by Eli Bornstein a famous local artist who has a studio on the banks of the Saskatchewan River just south of the city. The piece is located in front of the Synchroton Research building that studies sources of brilliant light.  I thought it was by Ron Kostyniuk who was born in the small community of Wakaw, Saskatchewan, in 1941. He studied at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon and later became an art professor at the University of Calgary where I met him when I was working at the Muttart Art Gallery. 

The University of Saskatchewan campus has public art scattered throughout the campus, however much of it has no information on who is the artist, title of the work or date.  I later figured out this piece is by Eli Bornstein a famous local artist who has a studio on the banks of the Saskatchewan River just south of the city. The piece is located in front of the Synchroton Research building that studies sources of brilliant light.

I thought it was by Ron Kostyniuk who was born in the small community of Wakaw, Saskatchewan, in 1941. He studied at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon and later became an art professor at the University of Calgary where I met him when I was working at the Muttart Art Gallery. 

Urban Design As Art

I loved these bollard that look like mini contemporary grain elevators.  I love when art can also have a function i.e. pedestrian safety. 

I loved these bollard that look like mini contemporary grain elevators.  I love when art can also have a function i.e. pedestrian safety. 

When I first saw this I thought it was public art that referenced the animal traps of the fur traders who were responsible for the early exploration and settlement of the area.  I also liked historical text. Later I learned they were bike racks.  

When I first saw this I thought it was public art that referenced the animal traps of the fur traders who were responsible for the early exploration and settlement of the area.  I also liked historical text. Later I learned they were bike racks.  

Bike rack or public art? 

Bike rack or public art? 

If Joe Farfard designed a bike rack?

If Joe Farfard designed a bike rack?

Bike racks on Broadway. 

Bike racks on Broadway. 

Popular Public Art

Perhaps we should include children on public art juries. 

Perhaps we should include children on public art juries. 

Every public art collection must have a huge animal in the middle of the sidewalk.  This is the first musk ox sculpture I have seen. 

Every public art collection must have a huge animal in the middle of the sidewalk.  This is the first musk ox sculpture I have seen. 

"Launch Time" is just one of many public art pieces along Saskatoon's River Walk in the downtown.  These canoe-like fragments are a collaborate piece by Mel Bolen, Charley Farrero, Michael Hosaluk and Sean Whalley. 

"Launch Time" is just one of many public art pieces along Saskatoon's River Walk in the downtown.  These canoe-like fragments are a collaborate piece by Mel Bolen, Charley Farrero, Michael Hosaluk and Sean Whalley. 

Decorative Arts

Mural on the side of the mid-century modern Hudson's Bay department store that is now a condo. 

Mural on the side of the mid-century modern Hudson's Bay department store that is now a condo. 

Street Art / Graffiti 

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MOTA stands for Museum of Temporary Art (MoTA) that was initiated in 2012 by Jeff Nachitgall in the Riversdale neighbourhood. The works are created in a studio and then attached to the wall like they would be in an art gallery. He wanted to engage people who don't visit art galleries.  I found about six MOTA pieces in the alleys and side streets of Riversdale.

MOTA stands for Museum of Temporary Art (MoTA) that was initiated in 2012 by Jeff Nachitgall in the Riversdale neighbourhood. The works are created in a studio and then attached to the wall like they would be in an art gallery. He wanted to engage people who don't visit art galleries.  I found about six MOTA pieces in the alleys and side streets of Riversdale.

Quirky Art 

I definitely think this entrance could be considered to be public art.  

I definitely think this entrance could be considered to be public art. 

This sculpture, "Jump" by Brian Newman located behind City Hall would fit nicely into a children's playground. 

This sculpture, "Jump" by Brian Newman located behind City Hall would fit nicely into a children's playground. 

I loved these Picasso inspired folk art pieces. I loved them so much I tracked down the artist and brought home two - blog to follow.

I loved these Picasso inspired folk art pieces. I loved them so much I tracked down the artist and brought home two - blog to follow.

I found a few of these fun top hat cross walk figures.  I love this kind of fun creativity.  It reminded me of "Amplemannchen" a cartoon-like human figure used in West Germany traffic signals for walk and stop.  

I found a few of these fun top hat cross walk figures.  I love this kind of fun creativity.  It reminded me of "Amplemannchen" a cartoon-like human figure used in West Germany traffic signals for walk and stop.  

Another reference to the fur trading industry? 

Another reference to the fur trading industry? 

Found this mysterious fabric piece in the front yard of a modest home in the Nutana neighbourhood that could easily be that of an artist. I like the idea of utilizing the front yard as an outdoor gallery or studio space. 

Found this mysterious fabric piece in the front yard of a modest home in the Nutana neighbourhood that could easily be that of an artist. I like the idea of utilizing the front yard as an outdoor gallery or studio space. 

I understand it is common practice to dress-up sculptures in Saskatoon.  This one was dressed up for the Pride Parade. 

I understand it is common practice to dress-up sculptures in Saskatoon.  This one was dressed up for the Pride Parade. 

Last Word 

While Saskatoon might not have a public artwork by a world renowned artist, I think that works in their favour.  Their public art is about Saskatoon by Saskatoonians.  It isn't the ubiquitous public art you see in every North American city.  It helps create a unique sense of place.    

I was told by a local that many of the new pieces are leased from the artist for a 3-year period and then returned to the artist.  Public art doesn't have to be permanent art!

Hmm....perhaps Calgary should have develop a "lease to buy" program for public art which would allow controversial pieces to be removed if they haven't gained public acceptance after three years. 

It seemed like there was public art or artifacts on every block of Saskatoon's city center, which is why I think Saskatoon could be called the "Public Art Capital of the Prairies." 

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

Putting The Public Back Into Public Art

Do we really need all of this public art?

Ranked: Public Art In Downtown Saskatoon

Postcards: Spring Garden Flaneuring

Of the four seasons, I think I like spring the best.  Perhaps more so this year as Calgary had such a long, long winter.  I love spring because of the intensity of the colour - the flowers are almost  almost neon-like.  They are also very sensuous. 

Given that spring ended this past week I thought I would share with you some postcards from my almost daily flaneuring of my garden and others. 

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More Than Just Flowers

Backstory: This and the next photo are from the backyard of an architect friend in Saskatoon. I am so jealous of his man cave.  Since I could never have my own garden pavilion, I got him to take me to his birdhouse maker so I could get one of the birdhouses.  I loved them so much I got two.  

Backstory: This and the next photo are from the backyard of an architect friend in Saskatoon. I am so jealous of his man cave.  Since I could never have my own garden pavilion, I got him to take me to his birdhouse maker so I could get one of the birdhouses.  I loved them so much I got two.  

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I love our front yard birdhouse.  We even have chickadees nesting in it this year. 

I love our front yard birdhouse.  We even have chickadees nesting in it this year. 

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Back To The Flowers

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Last Word

I couldn't help but play with hybridizing some of the photos with the Union App to create the follow photo collage artworks.  Hope you have enjoyed the show.  

Send me your garden photos - I'd love to see them.

 

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Calgary: At The Forefront Of North America's Urban Densification Revolution?

For 50+ years Calgarians have watched numerous master-planned communities get built at the city’s edge. Only recently, have we begun seeing them pop up our inner-city neighbourhoods

The Bridges is master-planned community created a new heart for Bridgeland/Riverside one of Calgary's oldest communities. It has become a haven for young families with its access to major parks, schools, downtown and its own main street.

The Bridges is master-planned community created a new heart for Bridgeland/Riverside one of Calgary's oldest communities. It has become a haven for young families with its access to major parks, schools, downtown and its own main street.

First there was The Bridges on the old General Hospital site in Bridgeland/Riverside in 2005, followed by the development of East Village, where its first condo was completed in 2015. Both projects were City of Calgary-led initiatives and both are in the City Centre.

The N3 condo in East Village built with not parking sold out in a weekend. It is part of the mega makeover of East Village that will become home for 12,000 people by 2025.

The N3 condo in East Village built with not parking sold out in a weekend. It is part of the mega makeover of East Village that will become home for 12,000 people by 2025.

Today, there are three master-planned, urban villages (low, mid and high rise condos) reshaping Calgary’s older suburbs – Currie by Canada Lands Corporation (CLC) on the old Canadian Forces Base: University District by West Campus Development Trust on vacant University of Calgary lands; and West District by Truman Homes on the western edge of the city ,in the community of Wentworth.

What is a master-planned urban village?

It is a community with a comprehensive land use plan that focuses on predominately mixed-use, multi-family buildings with significant office, retail, restaurant, recreational and other uses where most of the residents’ everyday needs are within walking distance.  They also offer accessibility to enhanced transit, bike lanes, multi-use pathways and a central park. Urban villages are often part of, or next to, a major employment centre allowing residents to walk, cycle or take transit to work.

Currie

Currie, a 400-acre mega infill project that includes Garrison Woods and Garrison Green, will transform the historic Canada Forces Base that straddled Crowchild Trail at Richard Road/Flanders Avenue into a city within a city.

Currie’s 15 mews (i.e. side yards between buildings won’t be dead space but activated with small cafes, shops and bistros) when added to the street retail, restaurants and urban grocery store, will make Currie’s town center a pedestrians’ paradise.  Currie will also offer the most diverse housing types of any new Calgary urban village, from estate homes to high-rise residential towers, from townhomes to mid-rise condos, all within walking distance to 23 acres of parks and plazas

Currie is within walking distance to Mount Royal University and Lincoln Park Business campus. Ultimately, the SW BRT and several existing bus routes will provide residents with several transit options. Cyclists will enjoy the Quesnay Wood Drive dedicated cycle lanes.  

A strategic partnership between CLC and Embassy Bosa will see the later build approximately 2,500 condo homes and the majority of Currie’s retail in 2019.

Currie received the Charter Award for Neighbourhood, District and Corridor by the Chicago-based Congress of New Urbanism for its application of new urbanism principles.

Artist's rendering of one of the 15 mews that will make Currie a pedestrian paradise.

Artist's rendering of one of the 15 mews that will make Currie a pedestrian paradise.

Artist's rendering of Currie's Main Street.

Artist's rendering of Currie's Main Street.

University District

University District (UD) is a new inner-city community surrounding the Alberta Children’s Hospital.  Unlike other master-planned communities where the land is sold to developers who then build the homes, UD land will be developed based on a 99-year prepaid land lease, based on the successful UBC Properties Trust  model in Vancouver.

UD’s townhomes and mid-rise residential buildings, will be designed to appeal to families, seniors, young professionals and empty nesters.  Already under construction are townhomes by Brookfield (Ivy) and Truman (Noble). Construction begins later this year on Truman’s Maple condo for independent seniors’ living and Brenda Strafford Foundation’s Cambridge Manor, an assisted living and long-term care facility. As well, Avi Urban launched its August condo project in March. Just over 1,000 residential units will be under construction by fall of 2018, with the first residents moving in beginning late 2018.

Also under construction is Gracorp’s Rhapsody, a six-storey mixed-use building with a Save-On-Foods grocery store on the main level and residential above. Rhapsody will anchor the nine-block main street designed to create a “Kensington-like” pedestrian experience.

University District will become the heart and soul of Calgary’s second largest employment hub that includes University of Calgary, Foothills Medical Centre, Alberta Children’s’ Hospital, Market Mall and University Research Park.

UD is a LEED ND Platinum certified community, the first in Alberta and the largest in Canada. 

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West District

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While Currie and University District have government affiliations, West District is a legacy project for Truman Homes a private Calgary developer.  The inspiration for West District was the human-scale, walkable neighbourhoods of Portland’s Pearl District and Vancouver’s False Creek.

West District will be a mid-rise community with a diversity of mixed-use residential and commercial buildings from 6 to 9 storeys (aka human scale.)  Led by Calgary’s CivicWorks Planning + Design, it will be a model for “smarter growth” showcasing how walkable, dense and diverse communities can be achieved without high rises.

The 7-block long main street, will not only integrate shops, bistros and cafes, with office, financial, recreation and medical hubs, but also enhanced sidewalks and a dedicated bike lane to maximize pedestrian and cycling accessibility.

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Central Park, its 8-acre public space will include a 500-seat amphitheater, skate park, skating rink, spray park, basketball court, playground, dog park and a large amenity/event building will be a year-round, all ages urban playground.

West District won Calgary’s 2015 Mayor’s Urban Design Award for City Edge Development. 

West District's Central Park also features a major water feature.

West District's Central Park also features a major water feature.

West District's skate park and basketball courts is part of Central Park.

West District's skate park and basketball courts is part of Central Park.

Model of West District "main street" with retail at ground level and separate cycling lanes in the West District sales centre.

Model of West District "main street" with retail at ground level and separate cycling lanes in the West District sales centre.

Last Word

The biggest challenge facing North American cities today is how to reshape their older residential dominated, auto-centric suburbs into mixed-use, multi-modal (driving, transit, cycling and walking) 21st century communities.  

In November 2017, I blogged about why I think Calgary is the infill capital of North America when it comes to inner-city single-family, duplex and row housing.

Link: Infill Capital of North America: Calgary vs Nashville

Currie, University District, West District and their two forerunners - East Village and The Bridges, as well as projects like Quarry Park, SETON, Medicine Hill and Greenwich - put Calgary at the forefront of North America’s current urban densification revolution.

SETON by Brookfield Residential is a mega new 300-acre urban centre under construction at the southeast edge of Calgary. It will include 1.5M sf of office space, 1M sf of retail, 6,000 to 7,000 new home (towns and condos), South Health Campus, high school and largest YMCA in the world.

SETON by Brookfield Residential is a mega new 300-acre urban centre under construction at the southeast edge of Calgary. It will include 1.5M sf of office space, 1M sf of retail, 6,000 to 7,000 new home (towns and condos), South Health Campus, high school and largest YMCA in the world.

Trinity Hills at Canada Olympic Park by Trinity includes 670,000sf retail, 125,000sf office and 2,355 homes (towns and condos) is currently under construction.

Trinity Hills at Canada Olympic Park by Trinity includes 670,000sf retail, 125,000sf office and 2,355 homes (towns and condos) is currently under construction.

Greenwich by Melcor is under construction across the street from Medicine Hill. It includes 200,000sf office, 120,000sf of retail and 1,200 townhomes and low-rise condos.

Greenwich by Melcor is under construction across the street from Medicine Hill. It includes 200,000sf office, 120,000sf of retail and 1,200 townhomes and low-rise condos.

Note: An edited version of this blog was published in the Calgary Herald's May 2018 edition of Condo Xtra. 

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

Currie: Calgary's newest historic district

West District: A model mid-rise community!

University District: My final resting place?

 

 

University District: A Community For All Ages

It is amazing how successful James Robertson, CEO and President West Campus Development Trust has been quarterbacking the development of University District (vacant land west of University of Calgary, next to Alberta Children’s Hospital) community in the midst of a major economic downturn.  

It is impressive how he has developed a game plan totally different from East Village and Currie, Calgary’s other inner-city, master-planned urban villages. 

University District site

University District site

University District site construction

University District site construction

Early concept rendering of pedestrian streetscape. 

Early concept rendering of pedestrian streetscape. 

Touchdown! 

He has completed “passes” to several condo developers for touchdowns, early in the game, just like East Village and Currie.  But he has thrown touchdown passes much earlier in the game with the players like Save On Foods (grocery store), Brenda Strafford Foundation’s Cambridge Manor (seniors housing) and most recently, the ALT Hotel. 

How he convinced Save On Foods to be part of the first quarter of the game is remarkable. Usually, a grocery store wants to see a critical mass of residents before they commit. Given University District is only minutes (by car) from three Safeway stores (Market Mall, Montgomery and Brentwood) and a Calgary Co-op (Brentwood), this was a long bomb completion. 

Construction has begun of the 38,000 square foot Save On Foods as part of a mixed 288-unit residential development.  The building - to include a coffee shop, restaurant, pet store and wine merchant - will be the anchor for University District’s main street. 

It is scheduled to open in 2020 at approximately the same time as many of the University District’s first residents move into their homes. In comparison, residents in East Village had to wait several years before they got their grocery store and to get their own retail/restaurant, while Currie residents are still waiting.

Save On Foods residential development concept rendering. Currently under construction.

Save On Foods residential development concept rendering. Currently under construction.

 All Ages Welcomed

While most master-planned urban villages start with mid to high-end condos as a means of creating a market for signing-up the retail, shopping and services players. University District committed to housing for seniors (not known to be big spenders) at the outset.  

Construction of Cambridge Manor, a 240-unit assisted and long-term seniors’ care facility has begun. It is set to also open in 2020.  Developed by the West Campus Development Trust in partnership with Brenda Strafford Foundation, the goal is to engage the entire University of Calgary campus in a multi-disciplinary approach to aging in place.  How innovative and mindful is that?

By design, Noble (by Truman Homes) and Ivy (by Brookfield Residential), University District’s first two residential projects include larger townhomes as a means of attracting families to live and stay living in the district as their families “grow and shrink.” Robertson has heard and responded to the criticism that Calgary’s inner city condo development lacks larger units more suitable to the needs of families.  

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Concept rendering for Alt Hotel / Residential development under construction.

Concept rendering for Alt Hotel / Residential development under construction.

University District Discovery Centre

University District Discovery Centre

Still from "MyUniversityDistrict" concept video (photo credit: West Campus Development Trust) 

Still from "MyUniversityDistrict" concept video (photo credit: West Campus Development Trust) 

Still from "MyUniversityDistrict" concept video (photo credit: West Campus Development Trust) 

Still from "MyUniversityDistrict" concept video (photo credit: West Campus Development Trust) 

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Parks

Work is also currently underway on University District’s three-acre Central Park led by Denver-based Civitas and Calgary’s Gibbs Gage Architects, with an anticipated opening in 2021.  But beforehand, the two-acre North Pond and dog park will open this summer

Still from "MyUniversityDistrict" concept video (photo credit: West Campus Development Trust) 

Still from "MyUniversityDistrict" concept video (photo credit: West Campus Development Trust) 

Still from "MyUniversityDistrict" concept video (photo credit: West Campus Development Trust) 

Still from "MyUniversityDistrict" concept video (photo credit: West Campus Development Trust) 

Last Word

Robertson believes the reason he has been successful in attracting developers in a recession is the “mindful integration of different lifestyles, combined with a remarkable location and community-based planning which has resulted in a complete community. The strong multi-generational community vision is what our development partners have been attracted to. Creating multi-generational homes offers major benefits for residents of all ages and might be the housing shift Calgary needs as a changing city.”

Robertson respects “the city we live in was built by seniors. It's important to us that there's a place for them in University District.”

While the game isn’t over yet, Robertson and his team are off to a fast start.

Link: MyUniversityDistrict Video 

Note: An edited version of this blog appeared in the May edition of Condo Living Magazine. 

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Staircases As Art

I will let the staircases speak for themselves.....

Museo Soumaya, Mexico City

Museo Soumaya, Mexico City

Post Office, Mexico City

Post Office, Mexico City

Antinori Chianti Classico Winery Parkade, Bargino, Italy

Antinori Chianti Classico Winery Parkade, Bargino, Italy

Atlanta Convention Centre, Atlanta

Atlanta Convention Centre, Atlanta

Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

National Music Centre, Calgary, Alberta

National Music Centre, Calgary, Alberta

The Kiss, Leipzig, Germany

The Kiss, Leipzig, Germany

Colourful Staircases

Adventure Hotel, Nelson, BC

Adventure Hotel, Nelson, BC

Palais des congres de Montreal, Montreal, Quebec

Palais des congres de Montreal, Montreal, Quebec

The Twist, Palm Springs, California

The Twist, Palm Springs, California

Memorial Park Library, Calgary, Alberta

Memorial Park Library, Calgary, Alberta

Central Library, Seattle, Washington

Central Library, Seattle, Washington

Riddell Library & Learning Centre, Mount Royal University, Calgary

Riddell Library & Learning Centre, Mount Royal University, Calgary

Lions Park Station, Calgary

Lions Park Station, Calgary

Zion Park, Utah

Zion Park, Utah

Berlin, Germany

Berlin, Germany

Emergency Staircases

Sunalta Station, Calgary

Sunalta Station, Calgary

Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs, California

Backstairs, Montreal 

Backstairs, Montreal 

Hillhurst School, Calgary, Alberta

Hillhurst School, Calgary, Alberta

The Mustard Seed Co-op, Hamilton, Ontario

The Mustard Seed Co-op, Hamilton, Ontario

Black & White 

Mexico City

Mexico City

Mexico City

Mexico City

Plateau, Montreal, 

Plateau, Montreal, 

West Hillhurst, Calgary, 

West Hillhurst, Calgary, 

Crowchild Trail Overpass, West Hillhurst, Calgary

Crowchild Trail Overpass, West Hillhurst, Calgary

King Memorial Transit Station, Atlanta

King Memorial Transit Station, Atlanta

Sunalta Station, Calgary

Sunalta Station, Calgary

A Place To Sit

Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon

Palm Springs Art Museum

Palm Springs Art Museum

Spanish Steps, Rome, Italy

Spanish Steps, Rome, Italy

Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy

Last Word

I hope you enjoyed this photo essay. If you have a favourite staircases photo you'd like to share send it to me at rwhiteyyc@gmail.com and I will add it to the blog. Thanks for reading! 

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

The curse of minimalism

Chicago: Gold Coast Staircases

Calgary: Best Places To Sit

 

Restaurant Designs Express Calgary's Sense of Place

When it comes to shaping a city, architects (building and landscape) and artists (public art, muralists) get the lion’s share of the media and public attention - good and bad. However, interior designers play an important role too, especially when it comes to restaurant design. After all, you probably only glance at a building or public artwork for a minute, maybe less, but you are in a restaurant for an hour or more.

While some argue a well-designed restaurant doesn’t distract from the food and conversation, I say “bah hamburg!” Good restaurant design has numerous eye-catching components – features like a cool mural, a quirky bathroom, funky artwork, unique furniture or creative use of materials – all being common conversation starters. 

To make my point, I chose seven Calgary restaurants I believe combine great design (all by Calgary designers) and reflect Calgary’s personality, i.e. youthful, colourful and playful.

After I submitted my piece to City Palate, I discovered Nando's on 17th Avenue. It was like walking into an art installation at a contemporary art gallery.  To me it captured the sense of youth and play that epitomizes Caglary. 

After I submitted my piece to City Palate, I discovered Nando's on 17th Avenue. It was like walking into an art installation at a contemporary art gallery.  To me it captured the sense of youth and play that epitomizes Caglary. 

Yellow Door Bistro, 119 - 12 Ave SW

Yellow Door at Hotel Arts is a great example of creating fun eye candy. Full disclosure: yellow is my favourite colour.  Carl and Andrea Raimondi from Ingenium Designs created a space full of “delightful surprises,” the intent according to Fraser Abbott, Director of Business Development at Hotel Arts.  Beginning with the human-sized horse with lampshade on its head to the plastic, Lego-like chairs, this place is full of surprises. The colour yellow pops up everywhere - chairs, window shades and yes, the yellow door at the 12th Ave SW entrance. Yellow Door remains as fresh and playful as when it opened.

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Home & Away Calgary Kitchen, 1331 - 17 Ave SW

I love 17th Avenue’s Home & Away Calgary Kitchen because it focuses mostly on local sports history.  It is not a cookie cutter sports bar that could be anywhere in North America.  Sarah Ward, one of Calgary’s busiest restaurant designers, was able to access and recycle the hardwood floor from the Deer Run Community Centre gym. The floorboards were installed randomly so the colourful basketball, volleyball and badminton markings pop out everywhere, creating an after the ticker tape-like parade atmosphere.

The feature wall, covered with 50 vintage skateboards from California, is clever given it’s located a few blocks from Shaw Millennium Park, home of one of the world’s largest public skate parks.

The subtle use of old trophy figures as tap handles is simply brilliant.

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Bridgette Bar, 739 - 10th Ave SW

Bridgette Bar is divided into three rooms - the bar, the living room and the kitchen/dining room. Overall, the décor is an eclectic mix of artifacts, everything from two motorcycles to a large Chris Cran psychedelic artwork.  Many of the pieces are the personal property of Victor Choy, one of the owners who worked with Kelly Morrison of Frank Architecture to create Bridgette’s whimsical design.

The living room has an inviting mid century modern feel with its oval teak coffee table, wood accented chairs and retro hanging fireplace oh-so popular in the ‘70s. The most puckish artifacts are the many macramé pieces that adorn the dining room.

As they say, “everything that is old is new again.”

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RE:GRUB, 625 - 11Ave SW

RE:GRUB is a tiny space that packs a big punch, from the street art on its patio wall to the peacock blue and canary yellow interior colour scheme. You might want to leave your sunglasses on.  When you walk in you are immediately accosted by the cut-out metal barrels wonderfully transformed into chairs.  Quickly your eyes dart to the dramatic yellow rope strung from floor to ceiling creating a see-through wall separating the larger dining area from the entrance.

Once your eyes adjust to the bright colours, you notice one wall is actually made up of asphalt shingles. Yes, the same ones you see on the roofs of tens of thousands of Calgary homes.  Another wall is made from recycled warehouse pallets, as is the light fixture, chipboard walls and tabletops. The corrugated metal undersides of the counters add to this fun industrial chic vibe. 

RE:GRUB’s design is a collaborative effort of Lindsay O. Creative and owner Jose Azares.

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Alloy, 220 - 42 Ave SE

It has been said by many the McKinley Burkart-designed Alloy restaurant is one of the prettiest and coolest rooms in the city. Faux cherry blossom trees share the space with white decorative brick walls back lit with soft pink lighting.

The result: a light and airy, spring-like feel - no wonder Alloy is a popular wedding spot.

The six large white leather semi-circular banquettes with warm walnut tables in the center of the room are so popular there have literally been fights over who gets one.  Restaurants are often defined by their art. In Alloy’s case, it is the lunge’s harmless but very visually aggressive Mark Mullin abstract painting.  Perhaps too aggressive for some as one patron literally demanded another table because she “wasn’t going to face that painting that looks like intestines.”  Interestingly, the title of the piece is “Meltdown.”

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OEB, 222 - 5th Ave SW

John Gilchrist very fittingly describes OEB’s downtown location’s interior as “yolky” in his CBC review, others might think of it as “eggs gone wild” theme. The entire room is adorned with yolk yellow and egg white elements.  And the huge, egg-shaped booths are a modern twist on furniture designer Arne Jacobsen’s famous 1958 Egg chair.

Designed by Hribar Design Group, the interior has a definite mid-century feel with a contemporary twist, mixing uncluttered and sleek lines with geometric forms, strange juxtapositions and bold use of colour. The result: a cheerful and charming atmosphere. Overall, the design creates a visual vibrancy that mirrors the vitality of a packed restaurant at breakfast or brunch. 

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Foreign Concept, 1011 - 1st St. SW

Owner/chef Duncan Ly and designer Alykhan Velji worked together to create a colonial-inspired decor with sleek modernist elements for Foreign Concept. An immediate feeling of tranquility sets in as you enter and see the large mural of birds and butterflies playing in a garden behind the reception desk.

Colourized floor-to-ceiling images of a Chinese man in one dining room and Vietnamese woman in the other create an old-world charm and acknowledge the importance of respecting the past.  The wall of antique moon cake moulds in the lounge adds an element of both past and playfulness.  Ly and Velji also make great use of the large sidewalk windows of its corner site, allowing patrons to enjoy the street theatre while dining.

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Calgary: A Design City?

One could easily have chosen dozens of other Calgary restaurants with interesting and inventive designs – Model Milk, Teatros, Klein/Harris, Rouge, River Café or Vin Room at the airport immediately come to mind. 

Indeed, Calgary is becoming not only one of North America’s most interesting foodie cities, but also one of the most interesting design cities when it comes to architecture, public art (good, bad and ugly), public space, restaurant and retail design.

Note: An edited version of this blog was published in May/June 2018 edition of City Palate

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

Calgary's Design District Revisited

Calgary Condos: A Pop Of Colour

Calgary is NOT on the cusp of becoming a Design City

 

Atlanta is fun, funky and quirky!

I must confess Atlanta wasn't on my bucket list of cities to visit.  But when I got an opportunity to go to Augusta, GA for a practice round of The Masters golf tournament via Atlanta, I thought why not. 

I have often said, "I can find interesting things to see and do in any city!"

One of the things I like best about flaneuring is the surprises.  This has to be one of the best surprises I have encountered in a long time.  Note the empty bottle and piece of litter. Indeed every picture tells a story...

One of the things I like best about flaneuring is the surprises.  This has to be one of the best surprises I have encountered in a long time.  Note the empty bottle and piece of litter. Indeed every picture tells a story...

18,000 Step  Program

Everyone I asked about what to see and do in Atlanta said, "You will need a car." As everyday tourist, we loved a challenge.

Brenda and I spent 14 days in Atlanta's City Centre and found lots to see and do either on foot (averaging 18,000 steps a day, highest was 27,000+) or using the MARTA train (Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Association).

Brenda found this strange and quirky gravestone at the Oakland Cemetery. 

Brenda found this strange and quirky gravestone at the Oakland Cemetery. 

Game on!

We found great vintage, antique and thriftshops along Chamblee's Antique Row and a great craft brewery HopStix. Living across the street from Piedmont Park (Atlanta's equivalent to NYC's Central Park) was a delight. While Atlanta's City Centre doesn't have any streets with contiguous retail and restaurants we did find some hidden gems. 

We loved the buzz at Ponce City Market a repurposed Sears Roebuck Co. store and distribution centre. It made me rethink, "Why Calgary's Eau Claire Market didn't work? Would it work today?

Atlantic Station a reclaimed steel factory on the other side of the interstate highway from Midtown was also enlightening.  Its grid of mid-rise brick condos with street retail and restaurants mimicking an early 20th century warehouse district was a very pedestrian friendly. It has many of the elements of Calgary's University District and West District. It made me wonder, "if East Village shouldn't of had more midrise buildings with street retail to create a more human scale?"

Beltline was bustling

I was gobsmacked by the number of people strolling Atlanta's Beltline a reclaimed railway line that has become a multi-use trail modelled after NYC's High Line without all the fancy furnishing and finishings.  I bet there were 50,000+ people of all ages strolling the promenade on the 10km stretch that I experienced on a warm Saturday afternoon.

I was surprised they allowed cyclists (probably about 5% of the users) to use the concrete pathway when it was so busy.  I can't believe how aggressive and inconsiderate many of the cyclists were. Brenda headed home early as it was too unpleasant for her liking.  

After spending 14 days in Atlanta's City Centre, I am pleased to say the city was more fun, funky and quirky (FFQ) than I could have hoped for. 

Check out this FFQing photo essay and let me know what you think.  FYI. I have saved the best for last....

Found this strange dude hanging out at the Antique Factory (huge warehouse of mid-century modern artifacts) in Chamblee's Antique Row, which is easy to get to by MARTA (transit train).

Found this strange dude hanging out at the Antique Factory (huge warehouse of mid-century modern artifacts) in Chamblee's Antique Row, which is easy to get to by MARTA (transit train).

Found "Dolly" in the American League thrift store in Chamblee's Antique Row. 

Found "Dolly" in the American League thrift store in Chamblee's Antique Row. 

Everywhere we went we kept running into funky shops like this one. Around the corner was a fun little printing studio.  While Atlanta has no main streets (i.e. streets with continuous shops on both sides of the street), it does have fun off-the-beaten path shops.

Everywhere we went we kept running into funky shops like this one. Around the corner was a fun little printing studio.  While Atlanta has no main streets (i.e. streets with continuous shops on both sides of the street), it does have fun off-the-beaten path shops.

If you are looking for curated funky mid-century modern furnishings and artwork you have to go to   Decades Antiques and Vintage   at 1886 Cheshire Bridge Rd NE.  There are several antique and thriftstores in the area. 

If you are looking for curated funky mid-century modern furnishings and artwork you have to go to Decades Antiques and Vintage at 1886 Cheshire Bridge Rd NE.  There are several antique and thriftstores in the area. 

Little Five Points is like walking into a "magical mystery tour" as all of the building facades are colourful and playful. It reminded us of Berlin.

Little Five Points is like walking into a "magical mystery tour" as all of the building facades are colourful and playful. It reminded us of Berlin.

On Easter Sunday, there were lots of outdoor celebrations like this adult only party that included an egg toss on the front lawn.

On Easter Sunday, there were lots of outdoor celebrations like this adult only party that included an egg toss on the front lawn.

Even the cement trucks are works of art in Atlanta! 

Even the cement trucks are works of art in Atlanta! 

Aren't these folk art portable toilets at the outdoor science fair in Piedmont Park quirky?

Aren't these folk art portable toilets at the outdoor science fair in Piedmont Park quirky?

Thought this was a Claes Oldenburg sculpture in   Centennial Olympic Park  , but it turned out to be an information booth in front of the World of Coca-Cola building.  Too much fun!

Thought this was a Claes Oldenburg sculpture in Centennial Olympic Park, but it turned out to be an information booth in front of the World of Coca-Cola building.  Too much fun!

Another fun, funky, quirky facade...but with a social and political statement. 

Another fun, funky, quirky facade...but with a social and political statement. 

Atlanta is known as a auto-centric city, but we found using transit was a viable option.  This fun sculpture titled "Autoeater" by German artists Julia Venske and Gregor Spanle is located at an intersection that is busy with cars and pedestrians in Midtown

Atlanta is known as a auto-centric city, but we found using transit was a viable option.  This fun sculpture titled "Autoeater" by German artists Julia Venske and Gregor Spanle is located at an intersection that is busy with cars and pedestrians in Midtown

It would have been easy to miss this sun dial at the Inman Middle School in the Virginia/Highland community. It took me two trips to realize it wasn't just a clock.

It would have been easy to miss this sun dial at the Inman Middle School in the Virginia/Highland community. It took me two trips to realize it wasn't just a clock.

Found this Jetson sculpture in the lobby of the luxurious student study hall/library lobby with roof top garden that is on par with what you might find at a luxury urban hotel.  The Starbuck stays open until 2 am Sunday to Thursday!

Found this Jetson sculpture in the lobby of the luxurious student study hall/library lobby with roof top garden that is on par with what you might find at a luxury urban hotel.  The Starbuck stays open until 2 am Sunday to Thursday!

How fun is this three storey bench in the lobby of the Georgia Tech School of Architecture building?

How fun is this three storey bench in the lobby of the Georgia Tech School of Architecture building?

Stairs as sculpture? This quirky staircase it at the King Memorial MARTA Station.  The entire station is an interesting brutalist / modernist design. 

Stairs as sculpture? This quirky staircase it at the King Memorial MARTA Station.  The entire station is an interesting brutalist / modernist design. 

This wall of axes was just part of the fun of exploring the   Highland Woodworking   store at Highland and Virginia.  Think Lee Valley but bigger and totally focused on woodworking tools and material s.   It is a must see for any woodworker....

This wall of axes was just part of the fun of exploring the Highland Woodworking store at Highland and Virginia.  Think Lee Valley but bigger and totally focused on woodworking tools and materials.  It is a must see for any woodworker....

One of my favourite things to do is porch sitting.  Our Airbnb in Atlanta was just across the street from   Piedmont Park   with a lovely big porch.  It was a great place to people watch as there was an endless parade of joggers, dog walkers, cyclist and people just strolling along the edge of the park.  

One of my favourite things to do is porch sitting.  Our Airbnb in Atlanta was just across the street from Piedmont Park with a lovely big porch.  It was a great place to people watch as there was an endless parade of joggers, dog walkers, cyclist and people just strolling along the edge of the park.  

Found these fun doors in various spots in   Ponce City Market,   telling the history of this old Sears Roebuck & Co store and distribution centre.  Who knew Sears used to have an Animal Department that sold a Spider Monkey for $31.39 or 25 day-old Farm Master While Leghorn chicks for $1.90!  They also sold baby alligators but didn't give a cost.   Urban living was very different in the 1940s.

Found these fun doors in various spots in Ponce City Market, telling the history of this old Sears Roebuck & Co store and distribution centre.  Who knew Sears used to have an Animal Department that sold a Spider Monkey for $31.39 or 25 day-old Farm Master While Leghorn chicks for $1.90!  They also sold baby alligators but didn't give a cost. Urban living was very different in the 1940s.

Beltline midweek, with its funky whirligig artworks. 

Beltline midweek, with its funky whirligig artworks. 

No idea who create this troll or why, it is guarded one of the many underpasses along the Beltline.  Kids loved climbing up the hill to the troll.

No idea who create this troll or why, it is guarded one of the many underpasses along the Beltline.  Kids loved climbing up the hill to the troll.

Found this evil winged gargoyle on a post in the front yard or a house behind our Airbnb. I loved it but can't imagine many would. 

Found this evil winged gargoyle on a post in the front yard or a house behind our Airbnb. I loved it but can't imagine many would. 

Several vendors a the City Market offered whole pigs for sale.  How much fun would it be to order a pig from "Porky Pig?" 

Several vendors a the City Market offered whole pigs for sale.  How much fun would it be to order a pig from "Porky Pig?" 

Found this handmade swing on an island space in the middle of a busy intersection.  I had to give it a try.  It was a great way to pass the time waiting for the light to change. 

Found this handmade swing on an island space in the middle of a busy intersection.  I had to give it a try.  It was a great way to pass the time waiting for the light to change. 

Atlantans love bean bag tossing saw these in several locations from parks to outside offices.  I was amazed when Brenda stepped and landed two of her four blue bean bags in the hole from 30 feet. I made none.

Atlantans love bean bag tossing saw these in several locations from parks to outside offices.  I was amazed when Brenda stepped and landed two of her four blue bean bags in the hole from 30 feet. I made none.

Atlanta has lots of funky art, like this piece hanging from a tree in Piedmont Park near the dog park. 

Atlanta has lots of funky art, like this piece hanging from a tree in Piedmont Park near the dog park. 

This piece of art was in the front yard of a modest house. I would love to have one for my garden. It is no wonder we didn't go to the High Art Museum, given all the art along the streets and parks of the city.

This piece of art was in the front yard of a modest house. I would love to have one for my garden. It is no wonder we didn't go to the High Art Museum, given all the art along the streets and parks of the city.

Found these origami pieces lined up on the counter a Java Jive a funky diner with great midcentury furnishings. We were told there were made by a 9-year old customer.  

Found these origami pieces lined up on the counter a Java Jive a funky diner with great midcentury furnishings. We were told there were made by a 9-year old customer.  

You can find the strangest things at antique stores.  This totem was found at Antiques & Beyond a huge antique market on Cheshire Bridge.

You can find the strangest things at antique stores.  This totem was found at Antiques & Beyond a huge antique market on Cheshire Bridge.

I wonder why these New Era scientifically process potato chips aren't still available? Treasure hunting in thrift, vintage and antique shops in Atlanta is just too much fun.

I wonder why these New Era scientifically process potato chips aren't still available? Treasure hunting in thrift, vintage and antique shops in Atlanta is just too much fun.

Paris on Ponce   is an eclectic market with 83 vendors offer mostly vintage treasures.  There is an amazing lounge that they use for special events.  Unfortunately they didn't have any events happening while we were there. This art installation is at the entrance to the lounge. 

Paris on Ponce is an eclectic market with 83 vendors offer mostly vintage treasures.  There is an amazing lounge that they use for special events.  Unfortunately they didn't have any events happening while we were there. This art installation is at the entrance to the lounge. 

One of the first quirky things I notice about the Atlanta streets were all the utility markings on the sidewalk.  It wasn't just one or two streets it was everywhere in the downtown and midtown.  I mean everywhere.  I even ran into a guy who was repainting the lines.  

One of the first quirky things I notice about the Atlanta streets were all the utility markings on the sidewalk.  It wasn't just one or two streets it was everywhere in the downtown and midtown.  I mean everywhere.  I even ran into a guy who was repainting the lines.  

Good food and great chandeliers can be found at   Amelie's Bakery  .  Loved this pots and pans chandelier, but it was only one of a dozen very quirky chandeliers in the store. Note the sign saying "dessert first." This was my happy place.

Good food and great chandeliers can be found at Amelie's Bakery.  Loved this pots and pans chandelier, but it was only one of a dozen very quirky chandeliers in the store. Note the sign saying "dessert first." This was my happy place.

Found these amazing tree shadows on the sidewalk the evening I walked to Blind Willies blues bar on Highland.  This was on my way there, not back and the photo has not been enhanced.

Found these amazing tree shadows on the sidewalk the evening I walked to Blind Willies blues bar on Highland.  This was on my way there, not back and the photo has not been enhanced.

We saw a lot of FFQ work spaces during our Atlanta walkabouts but nothing better than  Matchstic . We were peeking in the doorway when the President happening to be leaving and he invited us in. We commented on how much we like the playful mural and then he showed us a wall of small drawings on small clipboards by staff members similar to the mural. We loved them and he told us to take a couple.  We are now proud owners of three Matchstic drawings! 

We saw a lot of FFQ work spaces during our Atlanta walkabouts but nothing better than Matchstic. We were peeking in the doorway when the President happening to be leaving and he invited us in. We commented on how much we like the playful mural and then he showed us a wall of small drawings on small clipboards by staff members similar to the mural. We loved them and he told us to take a couple.  We are now proud owners of three Matchstic drawings! 

This reflective angular block serves as both an artwork and an ATM machine on the AECOM plaza.  It was a lovely place to sit and watch the world go by even on a Sunday when the building was closed.  Went back the next day to take some more photos of the intriguing artwork in the lobby and was told no photos.  

This reflective angular block serves as both an artwork and an ATM machine on the AECOM plaza.  It was a lovely place to sit and watch the world go by even on a Sunday when the building was closed.  Went back the next day to take some more photos of the intriguing artwork in the lobby and was told no photos.  

We passed by this fun artwork almost everyday. I love it when art is both fun and makes a social statement. 

We passed by this fun artwork almost everyday. I love it when art is both fun and makes a social statement. 

Last Word

As you can imagine Atlanta has been very fruitful when it comes to ideas for blogs. Over the next month you can expect blogs comparing Calgary's City Centre to Atlanta's, a piece on Ponce City Market, Atlantic Station, Piedmont Park, Oakland Cemetery and the Beltline Trail. 

If you liked this blog, you will like: 

FFQing in Montreal

Nelson: Fun, Funky, Quirky

FFQing in Tri-Cities (Kennwick, Pasco, Richland)

 

Hamilton: Atelier Vsaint A Timeless Hidden Gem

We were just walking along minding our own business, when for some unknown reason we noticed the sign in the window said “OPEN.”  We could have easily walked by this tired two storey brick building in downtown Hamilton with its modest window display in an otherwise dark-looking interior.

But there was something intriguing about the surrealistic-looking poster in the Atelier Vsaint shop window saying watch repair that drew us in, despite not having a watch needing repair.  

Perhaps it was the curiosity of being an everyday tourist calling?

Was it the poster or the red door that made us want to go in?

Was it the poster or the red door that made us want to go in?

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Time Machine

As we opened the bright red door into the dimly lite space a bell rang and a friendly voice said “Come in.”  Quickly looking around the minimalist space, it looked as if it hadn’t changed for over a 100 years.  The well-dressed man behind the antique counter introduced himself as Vincent Cino, asking, “How can I help you?” 

We must have looked a bit puzzled as he quickly began to explain us that in addition to fixing watches he also makes custom watches and began showing us some of his impressive work.   

Really! Who knew there are people who actually still make watches by hand? It was like we were in a time machine that had taken us back 100+ years. 

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Backstory:  The first wristwatch was made for a woman, Countess Koscowicz of Hungary, by Swiss watch manufacturer Patek Philippe in 1868. Although it was the first timekeeping device to be designed specifically for use on the wrist, it was intended primarily as a piece of decorative jewelry.
It has been claimed that pocket watches were adapted to be worn on wrist bracelets prior to 1868, perhaps as early as the 1570s, though there is no concrete evidence to support this. Wristwatches were a natural progression from pocket watches, but men did not initially take to the idea, preferring to rely on the larger, more traditional and “masculine” timepiece.
The practicalities of the wristwatch, which could be operated with one hand rather than two, eventually won over popular opinion, appealing especially to those in the military, who needed to be able to monitor the time while also operating machinery and weaponry. Consequently, the first wristwatches to be produced in large quantities were those manufactured specifically for the German military in the 1880s by Swiss watchmaker Girard-Perregaux. (Source: Guinness World Records)
Vincent explaining to me how he will put my watch back together. He  takes photos of every step as he takes it apart.  

Vincent explaining to me how he will put my watch back together. He  takes photos of every step as he takes it apart.  

Putting It Back Together

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Back to our adventure

Vincent then told us the story of the building. It dates back to the 1820s and has been home to a watchmaker since the 1870s when Edwin K. Pass first leased the store and later bought the building. The Pass family operated their watchmaking business out of the building for 100+ years. At one time they were so busy they employed five full-time watchmakers.

He still uses the original 18th century safe to lock up the watchers and materials every night.

That was in April of 2017. Fast forward to February 2018.  

As I was planning my trip to visit my Mom, I began thinking  about my Hamilton Automatic Estoril watch that wasn’t keeping good time and wondering if Vincent could fix it. 

I did a Google search - his shop didn’t come up. I checked Google Maps - it wasn’t there.  Wondering if he was still in business, I asked my Mom to check and she said she went by on the bus and it looked like he was.

So I took my watch with me and on the first morning I headed to his shop. Sure enough, he was there.  I showed him my watch and he assured me he could fix it.  Said he have a look and see what the problem was and give me a call.  He called the next day saying it just needed a good cleaning, so I gave the “go ahead” and was to pick it up three days later before I left for home.

By chance, on next the next morning I happen to be walking by and the “Open” sign was on so I tried the door and sure enough he was there. Vincent asked, “Do you want to see your watch?” Sure….so he pulls out a small, Tupperware-like container with various compartments with all of the tiny pieces of my watch sorted. I didn’t say anything but I was thinking “I sure hope he knows how to put this back together.” 

Tuesday morning the watch is waiting for me and he says it is keeping good time.  As I am leaving he says, “it might lose a few seconds a day!” I smiled and said, “that would be OK.”

It has been keeping perfect time ever since.

Custom Vsaint watch, with the cool logo integrated into the face.

Custom Vsaint watch, with the cool logo integrated into the face.

About Vincent Cino

Born in Hamilton, Vincent became interested in watchmaking in 1974 when visiting family in Turin, Italy. There a he saw his cousin working away at his watchmaker’s bench fixing watches and became fascinated with the world of micro-mechanics and horology – the science of watchmaking.  Upon returning home, he signed up for the British Horological Institute’s online learning program and as they say, the rest is history.

Today, Vincent is an expert at building Swiss chronograph watches.  He sources all of his materials for creating custom Vsaint Timepieces from Switzerland, so one could say “there are Swiss watches made in Canada.” As well, all of the parts he needs for watch repairs are also Swiss. 

I had to ask…Vincent himself owns only two watches - one is his own creation and the other is a Rolex Submariner. 

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Last Word

I also learned my Hamilton Estoril watch was from the late 1960s. It wasn’t until 1964 that Seiko invented the automatic (self winding) chronograph and unveiled it at the Tokyo Olympics.  Later Heuer, Breitling and Hamilton and movement specialist Dubois Depraz developed the technology for the first automatic chromatics like mine. 

Now the dilemma is, do I want him to make me a custom watch?  He showed me one I really like that he was working on that was $1,250.  Really isn’t that expensive considering the cost of a watch battery these days. 

Full Disclosure: I paid full price for the cleaning of my watch, it was only afterwards that I decided to do this blog. 

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

Calgary: Art of Vintage: A hidden gem

Hamilton's James Street North is a hidden gem

Turner Valley Gas Plant: A Hidden Gem

Calgary Condos: A Pop of Colour

Calgary’s suburban communities have often been critized by urbanists as brown, beige and boring. The same could be said for most of Calgary’s early City Centre condo towers like Westmount Place (1979), The Estate (1980) and Eau Claire 500 (1983) immediately come to mind.

It is true - the preponderance of dull and dreary brown and beige buildings makes for a very depressing urban landscape, especially during Calgary’s winter when the grass is brown, the streets are covered with gravel and the leafless trees are a brownish grey. 

Thank goodness for Calgary’s deep blue winter skies!

Fortunately at the turn of the 21st century, Calgary architects and developers began to experiment, integrating coloured glass and panels into their exterior designs.

GEC Architecture utilized bold colours to create 

GEC Architecture utilized bold colours to create 

Pop of Colour

The front entrance of Pixel looks like a hip New York  nightclub. 

The front entrance of Pixel looks like a hip New York  nightclub. 

Battistella Development’s Orange Lofts (2003), designed by Kasian Kennedy of Vancouver, used a bright orange-red, ladder-like element on the exterior of the building creating an eye-catching industrial look that began the rebirth of East Village. 

Colours (2008) employs a two-story, stain glass like “Art Wall” that encloses and attractively disguises the building’s above ground parkade.

Pixel (2014) not only sports bright yellow squares randomly wrapping around a few balconies but also has a very cool and colourful entrance that looks like a hip New York nightclub.

Colours by Battistella has one of the best above-ground parkade designs I have ever seen. 

Colours by Battistella has one of the best above-ground parkade designs I have ever seen. 

Not to be outdone, Knightsbridge and Metropia engaged Calgary’s GEC architects to design four big, bold and colourful condos at the Brentwood LRT station from 2010 to 2014 named University City.  Each tower is distinguished by a brightly coloured angular plane that thrusts itself out of the middle of the each building.

University City's colours remind me of neighbourhood playground. This playfulness will become more appropriate as the planned transit oriented develop next to the Brentwood LRT station creates an urban playground. 

University City's colours remind me of neighbourhood playground. This playfulness will become more appropriate as the planned transit oriented develop next to the Brentwood LRT station creates an urban playground. 

The inspiration for University City's colours (red, yellow, green and orange) come from native prairie grasses, bushes and flowers.

The inspiration for University City's colours (red, yellow, green and orange) come from native prairie grasses, bushes and flowers.

The I.D. Inglewood condo by Sarina Homes completed in 2016 at the east end of 9th Avenue SE, features three-storey high red balcony boxes that recall the red ladder of the Orange Lofts and perhaps the Alberta Children’s Hospital windows.

The I.D. Inglewood condo by Sarina Homes completed in 2016 at the east end of 9th Avenue SE, features three-storey high red balcony boxes that recall the red ladder of the Orange Lofts and perhaps the Alberta Children’s Hospital windows.

Marda Loop’s GLAS condo (2017) designed by Calgary’s Sturgess Architecture recently won a Honourable Mention at the Mayor’s 2017 Urban Design Awards. Its design is dominated by the two-storey high salmon-coloured window boxes that definitely recall the fun oversized windows of the Alberta Children’s Hospital.

GLAS in Marda Loop

GLAS in Marda Loop

Alberta Children's Hospital was designed with input from children.

Alberta Children's Hospital was designed with input from children.

NORR architects employed bold coloured lines to give Auroa I both a vertical and horizontal thrust.   

NORR architects employed bold coloured lines to give Auroa I both a vertical and horizontal thrust.  

All these examples use pops of bold colour to create a more visually interesting exterior.  However, that is not always the case.

Colour Gone Wild?

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Built in 1999, the Point on the Bow condo in Eau Claire is a case in point. It was Calgary’s first condo to embrace the new coloured glass curtain wall technology that would become architects “go to” technology in the 21st century. 

The architects at Gibbs Gage covered almost the entire façade with emerald green glass that some thought harmonized nicely with the green hues of the Bow River at certain times of the year.

Others think it was a case of “colour gone wild.”

And then there is Attainable Homes’ Mount Pleasant 1740 condo designed by Calgary’s Sturgess Architecture and completed in 2016.  The façade is dominated by glowing (some say gaudy) neon greenish yellow panels that may have residents across the street wearing sunglasses. 

There is certainly nothing drab or boring its design. 

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Dare To Be Different

All the above examples employ the use of bold colours. However, Landmark-Qualex’s Mark on 10th (corner of 10th Ave and 8th St SW) dares to be different.  Designed by Vancouver’s Raffi architects, it incorporates panels of pastel blue, yellow and green hues randomly inserted into the opaque panels, creating a softer more feminine façade.  The uniqueness of the building is reinforced with the cantilevered yellow box at the top and the two-storey yellow glass greenhouse space with its bamboo tree growing at the 10th Ave entrance. 

The design is bold yet subtle.
Mark on 10th utilizes several pastel colours with a strong vertical and horizontal lines to create a contemporary stain glass design that recalls the art of Piet Mondrian.  

Mark on 10th utilizes several pastel colours with a strong vertical and horizontal lines to create a contemporary stain glass design that recalls the art of Piet Mondrian. 

Arriva completed on 2007, also utilized pastel colours to create a warm and inviting facade enhanced by the contrast between the curved balconies and the sharp edges of the windows and corners of the building.  There is a pleasing softness to this rounded design. 

Arriva completed on 2007, also utilized pastel colours to create a warm and inviting facade enhanced by the contrast between the curved balconies and the sharp edges of the windows and corners of the building.  There is a pleasing softness to this rounded design. 

Last Word

Incorporating colour and architecture is not as easy as one thinks. If not done right, it can quickly make a building tacky, gaudy and often becomes quickly dated. I have even heard from different sources that “architects are afraid of colour.”   

Perhaps that is why most timeless architecture has little colour.
NORR architects edgy new University of Calgary residence creates a strange juxtaposition withthe beige residences from the 70s and 80s that surround it. 

NORR architects edgy new University of Calgary residence creates a strange juxtaposition withthe beige residences from the 70s and 80s that surround it. 

An edited version of this blog was published in the Calgary Herald's Condo Xtra magazine, February, 2018, hence the focus on condos in this blog. 

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

The Art of Architecture & Colour

Calgary: What's Our Colour

Downtown Calgary: Black & White / Inside & Out

 

Palm Springs With A Twist

If, from the title, you are expecting a blog about Palm Springs’ cocktail culture, you are in for a surprise. The “twist” refers to the delightful “Twist” Airbnb where we stayed AND our “twist” on how to get around when visiting Palm Springs.

Yes that is beached whale in the distance. 

Yes that is beached whale in the distance. 

Twist Design

First off, neither the Twist owner nor Airbnb sponsored our stay so we are not “obligated” to say nice things. But we will because it is true.

Loved this view as we headed out for an adventure everyday.  

Loved this view as we headed out for an adventure everyday.  

Upon our arrival, as were getting out of our Uber car, we immediately loved its ultra clean, two-story white mid-century motel-like architecture.  Our love was heightened when we opened the gate to see the crystal blue water of the pool with funky orange lounge chairs and giant unicorn, swan and whale pool toys floating in the pool inviting us to come play with them. 

Then when we opened the door to our apartment, we immediately loved the space, colours and playful furniture and art. 

The large west-facing windows gave the spacious, open living room, dining room and kitchen lots of light (often desert architecture, because of the heat, avoids letting the sun shine into the house, resulting in interior rooms often feeling dark and dingy). The windows and generous balcony offered a great view of the mountains.  I immediately thought I could live here and as the week progressed that thought was confirmed over and over again.

Comfy couch...

Comfy couch...

Mellow Yellow...

Mellow Yellow...

And a beer or glass of wine....

And a beer or glass of wine....

Flower power....

Flower power....

Hot Tip #1

Our apartment #207 was at the back of the building so it was super quiet.

Yep, that's me relaxing on the balcony...

Yep, that's me relaxing on the balcony...

Twist Location

The fact we could walk out the door and be immediately in the Design District with its mix of new and vintage furniture and home accessory stores as well as art galleries, was great. 

We did a window walk-by the first afternoon, then a stroll the next day and another walk-by at night as some of the well-lit windows are like art installations. 

A 15-minute walk via the Design District gets you downtown with more boutiques, restaurants, cafes, museum and art galleries. 

This was Brenda's favourite shop...gotta like those mail boxes.

This was Brenda's favourite shop...gotta like those mail boxes.

Museum or home store?

Museum or home store?

Guess what kind of shop this was....

Guess what kind of shop this was....

Windows as art....

Windows as art....

Form & Function  

Form & Function  

Hot Tip #2  

Admission for the Palm Springs Art Museum (PSAM) is free every Thursday night and second Sunday of the month. It is a “must see” with its always entertaining and enlightening exhibitions.  It’s an easy and short walk from The Twist on the back roads through the charming Old Las Palmas community to get there.

There is nothing weird, wild or wacky about PSAM, which makes it easy to enjoy the art and not get lost. 

There is nothing weird, wild or wacky about PSAM, which makes it easy to enjoy the art and not get lost. 

Definitely the most imaginative exhibition I saw in 2017 was Kinesthesia: Latin American Kinetic Art, 1954–1969. This is Gyula Kosice's installation "La ciudad hidroespacial." 

Definitely the most imaginative exhibition I saw in 2017 was Kinesthesia: Latin American Kinetic Art, 1954–1969. This is Gyula Kosice's installation "La ciudad hidroespacial." 

Carlos Curz-Diez's installation "Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color and Space." The three empty rooms and a hallway flooded with colored lights was like walking into a neon-light sign.  Disorienting and playful at the same time....

Carlos Curz-Diez's installation "Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color and Space." The three empty rooms and a hallway flooded with colored lights was like walking into a neon-light sign.  Disorienting and playful at the same time....

Backstory:

This exhibition is the first in-depth examination of the pioneering role played by South American artists in the international Kinetic Art movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

Grounded by scholarly research into experimental art movements of the late 1940s and early 1950s in Buenos Aires, Caracas, and Rio de Janeiro, Kinesthesia begins its survey with the layered “vibrational” works created by Jesús Rafael Soto for the historic Le Mouvement exhibition at Galerie Denise René in Paris (1955) and goes on to explore more than fifty examples by nine artists.

The works of internationally well-known figures, such as Carlos Cruz-Diez, Gyula Kosice, and Julio Le Parc, along with Martha Boto, Horacio García-Rossi, Alejandro Otero, Abraham Palatnik, and Gregorio Vardánega, will be a discovery for most viewers in the United States. 

Kinesthesia makes a compelling case that although Paris remains the indisputable capital of Kinetic Art, much of the Latin American work thought to be in that category did not come into being as a consequence of the movement, but often anticipated, and unfolded in tandem with, the better-known European developments.

Twist Bikes

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We loved the Twist’s bright orange cruiser bikes that allowed us to explore the residential neighbourhoods nearby and further afield. Old Palmas and the Movie Colony communities just west and east of The Twist are full of classic mid-century modern homes – it’s like cycling through a copy of Architectural Digest.

We did the Palm Springs Mid-century Modern Architectural Self-guided Tour on bike: 

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Treasure Hunting Twist

Then another day we took the bikes and headed to the Antique District just south of Downtown where we found amazing treasure hunting at Revivals Thrift store, ECHO Vintage Furnishing (good prices, professionally curated), Antique Galleries of Palm Springs (huge) and Sunny Dunes Antique Mall.

Echo Vintage Furnishings is heaven for mid-century lovers. 

Echo Vintage Furnishings is heaven for mid-century lovers. 

Antique Galleries Palm Springs is packed with treasures on two floors.  

Antique Galleries Palm Springs is packed with treasures on two floors.  

Imagine finding a grand piano at a thrift store.  

Imagine finding a grand piano at a thrift store. 

Untitled, Jensen, 24" x 11" oil painting.  Picked up this artwork to add to our collection at the Antique Galleries of Palm Springs for $50 CDN. 

Untitled, Jensen, 24" x 11" oil painting.  Picked up this artwork to add to our collection at the Antique Galleries of Palm Springs for $50 CDN. 

Hot Tip #3

Check out Peninsula Pastries in the same outdoor mall as Revivals. It is a little bit of Paris in Palm Springs - the chocolate tongues are to die for.

The chocolate tongues were worth every penny....

The chocolate tongues were worth every penny....

Transit Twist

Everybody told us we needed a car in Palm Springs. Nobody told us public transit can work just fine for tourists.  While the buses don’t run every 5-minutes, Google Maps can tell you when the next bus is so you just plan for that. Bonus: the cost is only 50 cents for seniors  (60+) and youth (5 to 17 years), $1 for adults while kids under 5 are FREE.  Ten-ride and 31-day passes are also available. We were able to take the bus to Cathedral City to check out the Goodwill and Revivals thrift stores, as well as Target and Trader Joes.  

Link: Sunline Transit

Hot Tip #4

There is also a free trolley service Thursday to Sunday, 11 am to 1 am called Palm Springs BUZZ.  Hop on and off as much as you wish. The BUZZ serves the City of Palm Springs by travelling down Palm Canyon Drive to Smoke Tree, and up Indian and Palm Canyons Drives to Via Escuela (that’s the simple description—there are some small detours off the main streets.)

LInk: BUZZ Route Map

Yes everything in Palm Springs is playful and colourful....that is probably why it could become my happy place.

Yes everything in Palm Springs is playful and colourful....that is probably why it could become my happy place.

Last Word

We can hardly wait to get back to The Twist and Palm Springs. It could easily become an annual visit. 

Hot Tip #5

For those really hoping this blog would be about cocktails, we have recommendation on that too. Checkout Melvyn’s Sunday Afternoon Jam. It is right out of the ‘50s, you would swear the Rat Pack is somewhere in the building.  It is the perfect spot to order your favourite cocktail and enjoy some live music from the ‘50s.  I had a Black Russian for probably the first time in two decades.  FYI: I think there were still some patrons as well as the staff, have been hanging out here since the ‘50s.  Great people watching!

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