There are quite a few cities which I’ve visited in my travels and I certainly cannot make definitive statements. But it may be safe to say that Calgary is one post-modernist city par excellence.
I’ve been here a week. I went out with friends in various parts of the city and I’ve spent the day walking the streets of its downtown today (remember, today is Tuesday and on Tuesdays we go out, right? Right.) Man, is this a patchwork! You can literally tell that people working at the municipality have friends and family working either in the oil industries or real estate. Apart from the Plus 15 (an extensive network of pedestrian skywalks suspended at 15 feet above street level, which link the main buildings downtown so one doesn’t have to go outside in the harsh winter), there’s nothing which provides urban coherence. Bits and pieces everywhere. Historical references without much substance (I honestly wonder if those who implemented them did so conscientiously, that’s how random most things look). Mismatched colours, opulent materials, decrepit houses next to conserved heritage. This is the epitome of postmodernism, without the slightest doubt.
A picture is worth a thousand words, they say – so I’m thinking what better essay than a visual one, see below. Enjoy!
Yes, those are colourful plastic squirrels sticking their heads out of the walls. Creepy.
Former headquarters of Alberta businesses on Stephen street.
A mechanic horse – after all, this is the country of ranchers (yeah, sorry, forgot to mention that besides the oil business. I know, unforgivable.)
The Bow tower: opened windows in curtain wall, only in Alberta.
The stenographer: a facade detail on Stephen street
Core Shopping Centre – Cultures bowls: all Made in China…
…and the good taste of Britain – an oxymoron at Eau Claire Market
More of Eau Claire’s… love the spatial and cultural associations
The “no minors beyond this point” sign is a real killer in the context, don’t ya think?
We’re talking technology here, you dumb robots!
The Card Cave – yep, still at Eau Claire … And…
… REALLY fancy oils and vinegar. Like really! Who would have thought?
Any respectable market has a psychic reader – at least in Calgary they do.
And an information board which has the aesthetics of the “Do and Don’t” propaganda panels in communist Romania (that’s pour les connoisseurs)
Speaking of communism – best mural in the city, in my humble opinion. At Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre.
Howdy Casino! (Street ad)
Howdy cars! (City transit ads)
Howdy opera house! (Heritage Park Museum)
Wire art in a wireless city…
… And happy Giacometti (who the heck was that?)
Kurokawa’s Nagakin Capsule tower meet Goldberg’s Marina City. Modernism at its best, though not in a combination.
What, you thought the oilers and ranchers wouldn’t promote shipping container architecture? Think again:
(Open selectively, for the true hipsters out west)
Po-mo popular housing design – yep, it made it to Calgary!
Last but not least: Chinook centre, the po-mo masterpiece. I guess.
When you can’t get to NYC, pray to the lucky scarabee to bring the MET to you. After all, we’re all Egyptian, more or less… ’cause otherwise, the (multicultural) connotations beat me.
And for those of you familiar with turn-of-the-century Chicago and the story of Marshall having carriages waiting for the new middle-class customers to the train station to bring them to the store… well, Chinook centre has its shuttles! No kidding. From the train station two blocks away.
I’ll say just this in the end: worth a visit, this Calgary. Now is the time and this is a place to first hand experience what a Middle-Age city on the brink of heavy industrialization might have looked like – if there ever were such a thing. No, really.