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    Architectural gems
    Edmonton rich with vibrant, modernist buildings that deserve to be appreciated


    Paula Simons, The Edmonton Journal
    Published: Saturday, June 09, 2007


    It's not always easy to see the value of the things around you.

    As a kid in this city in the 1960s, I was surrounded by modern architecture.

    I grew up in Valleyview, surrounded by avant-garde homes, one-of-a-kind works of modernism designed by some of the city's leading architects.

    Northwest Utilities 1957 Northwestern Utilities Building, now known as the Milner Building, Rule Wynn Rule Architects.

    I went to Ross Sheppard High School, star-gazed at the planetarium, took swimming lessons at Coronation Pool, shopped at the Bay downtown, saw movies at the Paramount and the Garneau, went to bar mitzvahs at the Beth Shalom synagogue.

    I didn't know it at the time, but my Edmonton was actually a laboratory for modern design. Our postwar oil boom made this city a perfect laboratory for architectural experimentation. We were building a new city, with money and brashness to burn. Architects gathered here, some immigrants from postwar Europe, others new graduates for architecture schools in Winnipeg and Vancouver. Edmonton was their canvas -- and Edmontonians were willing to pay for unique design and fresh brave ideas.

    And as a kid, did I appreciate the bold, sleek architecture all around me?

    I did not. I thought it was weird and barren and cold. I longed to live in a city with real history, like London or Zurich, a city with historic buildings, with cathedrals and flying buttresses and Tudor timbering.

    But a funny thing happened to my esthetic sensibilities sometime in the last decade. Suddenly all that weird architecture started to look cool. And beautiful. Those clean, bare lines, those crazy '60s colours, that light-filled urban minimalism: All the things I used to think were kitschy somehow began to look hip and sophisticated.

    It's not just me. Perhaps it's nostalgia. Perhaps it's a reaction against the cutesy excesses of knock-off post-modernism. But suddenly, "retro-modernism" is all the rage, be it in fashion, or interior design, or architecture.

    So there couldn't be a better time for the Art Gallery of Alberta's newest show, Capital Modern, a celebration of some of Edmonton's best modernist architecture, from 1940 to 1969. The exhibit, which opens today, features blueprints, archival photos, and handsome building portraits by renowned Edmonton architectural photographer James Dow, compels you to look at Edmonton's modern structures in a whole new way, to discover beauty you never saw before.

    "Style is a revolving thing," says AGA chief curator, Catherine Crowston. "In your moment, you don't always notice or appreciate what your moment is."

    Capital Modern, which was co-curated by local architects Shafraaz Kaba, Troy Smith, and David Murray, features many of the prominent public buildings you might expect -- the Jubilee Auditorium, HUB Mall, the Royal Alberta Museum. But the show also highlights buildings you might not expect -- like the General Veterinary Hospital on 115th Avenue, the Epcor power station on Stony Plain Road and that little building in the Edmonton Municipal Cemetery on 107th Street. It showcases expensive "designer" homes in Windsor Park and Capital Hill, and "ordinary" patio homes in North Glenora.

    Walk around the gallery and you get a whole new perspective on Edmonton -- it's a trip back to a more innocent time, when the young, muscular city was filled with hope and potential, when public bodies and private owners were more willing to take risks, to invest money in cutting-edge design and in building materials like marble, limestone and cedar. A time when public bodies still believed in commissioning landmark infrastructure.

    As you gaze at the images of these brave, hopeful buildings, you have to ask -- with the boom-times back, where is our vision? Where is our esthetic courage? When did our ambition to build a great city evaporate?

    "There's a story here that keeps coming back and back. And I don't know if we're hearing it or learning our lessons," says David Murray.

    The irony is that our current boom is actually putting our modernist legacy at risk. Instead of treasuring these remarkable buildings, we're all too often tearing them down or renovating them beyond recognition or simply neglecting them until they become too run-down to save, too battered to appreciate.

    The beautiful old planetarium, for example, sits lonely and unloved in Coronation Park, used for little more than storage. Peter Hemingway's Central Pentecostal Tabernacle is halfway demolished already. A developer has just announced plans to tear down the Paramount Theatre. The Legislature Annex, the very first office tower in Canada built with a glass curtain wall, has been so poorly maintained that its neck is also on the block.

    Murray has spent years labouring to create a public inventory of Edmonton's best modernist architecture, so that city council can move to designate and protect some of these buildings as heritage assets. But it hasn't happened yet -- and time is running out for many of the city's signature modern buildings.

    Perhaps it's naive to think one show at the AGA can galvanize our community's political and business leaders to act to protect our unique buildings. But maybe it's not too much to hope that Capital Modern inspires in a new generation of Edmontonians a passion for the architectural riches we've inherited.

    [email protected]

    YOUR VIEW

    Capital Modern opens today at the Art Gallery of Alberta, in Enterprise Square -- the former Bay Building -- at Jasper Avenue and 102nd Street.

    What's your favourite piece of public sculpture in Edmonton? Which statues do you loathe? The deadline to enter Paula's contest is Monday. Send your nominees, and your reasons, to her at [email protected], fax her at 429-5500 or drop your entry at the Journal building at 10001 101st Street. First prize is an annual family pass to the AGA.

    TAKE A PEEK

    Check out more pictures from Capital Modern. Go to Photo Galleries at www.edmontonjournal.com

    © The Edmonton Journal 2007

    --30--

  • #2
    I am so excited for this exhibit. Did anyone else go to Kenneth Frampton lecture?

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by luxbeauty
      I am so excited for this exhibit. Did anyone else go to Kenneth Frampton lecture?
      I missed his lecture on Thursday, but was at the entire symposium on Friday and the Capital Modern Exhibit Grand Opening at the AGA on Friday night.

      Awesome. I thought it was interesting how at the symposium, noone had the nerves to bring up the demolition of Hemingway's Central Pentecostal Tabernacle.

      Gene Dub made a comment how in Edmoton, it is mainly those educated in architecture/design that lobby against the demolition of thise modernist buildings and there is little other support.

      I also learned that Banff had a Frank Lloyd Wright Building until it was demolished in the late '30's. Damn people...learn from the past.

      I can't wait to buy a Jimmy Dow photo. $500 is a steal.
      Thus the task is not so much to see what no-one yet has seen, but to think what nobody yet has thought that which everyone sees. - Schopenhauer

      Comment


      • #4
        1

        Comment


        • #5
          I went to the Capital Modern exhibit yesterday and thought it was great.
          It is nice to see the buildings that I grew up with getting recognized for their value. It's funny, the buildings shown were ones that I have always liked, but I never really knew why I liked them. I think the lesson is that quality lasts and always shows through regardless of the style or era.

          Comment


          • #6
            Trying to show the Milner some love. Not sure I'm feeling it. Apparently the HVAC needs it even more.

            Comment


            • #7
              ^one of my favourite buildings/designs in the city.


              Ottawa-Edmonton-Vancouver-Edmonton

              Comment


              • #8
                Fun fact: Robert Duke was my great uncle.
                I think of art, at its most significant, as a Distant Early Warning system that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it. —Marshall McLuhan

                Comment


                • #9
                  My father was on the mechanical design team. And I believe Percy Butler, the Mechanical EOR still comes to town.

                  https://www.flickr.com/photos/timtay...57625738086860
                  [IMG][/IMG]
                  [IMG][/IMG]
                  Last edited by BalancedOP; 22-05-2015, 12:03 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Love that building.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by TroyD View Post
                      Originally posted by luxbeauty
                      I am so excited for this exhibit. Did anyone else go to Kenneth Frampton lecture?
                      I missed his lecture on Thursday, but was at the entire symposium on Friday and the Capital Modern Exhibit Grand Opening at the AGA on Friday night.

                      Awesome. I thought it was interesting how at the symposium, noone had the nerves to bring up the demolition of Hemingway's Central Pentecostal Tabernacle.

                      Gene Dub made a comment how in Edmoton, it is mainly those educated in architecture/design that lobby against the demolition of thise modernist buildings and there is little other support.

                      I also learned that Banff had a Frank Lloyd Wright Building until it was demolished in the late '30's. Damn people...learn from the past.

                      I can't wait to buy a Jimmy Dow photo. $500 is a steal.

                      Click on the pics in the article for much larger views... sounds like it was a rather useless building.

                      Interesting comments about Ottawa vs the locals and local needs


                      Banff National Park Pavilion

                      "The Banff National Park Pavilion, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and Francis Conroy Sullivan, Wright's only Canadian student. Designed in 1911, in the Prairie School style, construction began in 1913 and was completed the following year. The pavilion was built on the..."

                      ...The last of only two Wright designs in Canada, the pavilion was demolished in 1939. ..."

                      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banff_..._Park_Pavilion

                      Frank Lloyd Wright Pavilion
                      A Controversial Construction

                      The pavilion was designed in Wright’s rustic “Prairie” style, characterized by horizontal lines, low-hipped roof and overhanging eaves. The style was meant to interact between the outside and inside of a building and blend into the landscape. However, some critics have noted that the low-hipped roof was poorly designed for a snowy northern winter, although Wright did make concessions to the local environment by switching from a stuccoed exterior to natural materials such as cedar, spruce and local stone. The interior of the building consisted of one long room, flanked by separate retiring rooms for ladies and gentlemen. A row of “art glass” windows and an outside terrace looked towards Sulphur Mountain. The outside was landscaped with a large wading pool, and a canal-way for canoeists connected the grounds to the Bow River.


                      As one of only two Frank Lloyd Wright buildings to be constructed in Canada - the other, a private cottage in Ontario still stands - the Banff Pavilion is undoubtedly important architecturally. Although the building no longer exists, interested residents can still view a small model at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies.


                      https://www.banff.ca/index.aspx?NID=487
                      Last edited by KC; 17-12-2015, 11:27 PM.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Noting the large Western Asbestos ad, is the Milner full of it? I installed flooring made with asbestos for half of my life and removed it as well, amazing I'm still here. It was considered a good thing to have for it's fire rating but we didn't know about the deadly fibres of course. Most commercial buildings had V/A Tile (vinyl-asbestos). The tiles look the same but are now called V/C Tile (vinyl composition) and safer.
                        Just enjoying another day in paradise.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by KC View Post
                          Originally posted by TroyD View Post
                          Originally posted by luxbeauty
                          I am so excited for this exhibit. Did anyone else go to Kenneth Frampton lecture?
                          I missed his lecture on Thursday, but was at the entire symposium on Friday and the Capital Modern Exhibit Grand Opening at the AGA on Friday night.

                          Awesome. I thought it was interesting how at the symposium, noone had the nerves to bring up the demolition of Hemingway's Central Pentecostal Tabernacle.

                          Gene Dub made a comment how in Edmoton, it is mainly those educated in architecture/design that lobby against the demolition of thise modernist buildings and there is little other support.

                          I also learned that Banff had a Frank Lloyd Wright Building until it was demolished in the late '30's. Damn people...learn from the past.

                          I can't wait to buy a Jimmy Dow photo. $500 is a steal.

                          Click on the pics in the article for much larger views... sounds like it was a rather useless building.

                          Interesting comments about Ottawa vs the locals and local needs


                          Banff National Park Pavilion

                          "The Banff National Park Pavilion, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and Francis Conroy Sullivan, Wright's only Canadian student. Designed in 1911, in the Prairie School style, construction began in 1913 and was completed the following year. The pavilion was built on the..."

                          ...The last of only two Wright designs in Canada, the pavilion was demolished in 1939. ..."

                          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banff_..._Park_Pavilion

                          Frank Lloyd Wright Pavilion
                          A Controversial Construction

                          The pavilion was designed in Wright’s rustic “Prairie” style, characterized by horizontal lines, low-hipped roof and overhanging eaves. The style was meant to interact between the outside and inside of a building and blend into the landscape. However, some critics have noted that the low-hipped roof was poorly designed for a snowy northern winter, although Wright did make concessions to the local environment by switching from a stuccoed exterior to natural materials such as cedar, spruce and local stone. The interior of the building consisted of one long room, flanked by separate retiring rooms for ladies and gentlemen. A row of “art glass” windows and an outside terrace looked towards Sulphur Mountain. The outside was landscaped with a large wading pool, and a canal-way for canoeists connected the grounds to the Bow River.


                          As one of only two Frank Lloyd Wright buildings to be constructed in Canada - the other, a private cottage in Ontario still stands - the Banff Pavilion is undoubtedly important architecturally. Although the building no longer exists, interested residents can still view a small model at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies.


                          https://www.banff.ca/index.aspx?NID=487
                          Interesting. Now after it's gone, someone sees value in it.

                          Banff considers rebuilding pavilion designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

                          TAYLOR LAMBERT
                          More from Taylor Lambert
                          Published on: March 26, 2016

                          http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-...k-lloyd-wright

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            More in the Banff construction


                            Pretty hilarious!





                            Although the town’s residents had unanimously proposed a multi-use winter sporting facility with curling and hockey rinks, Wright and Sullivan designed a prairie-style picnic shelter.




                            http://banff.ca/index.aspx?NID=487




                            Should Frank Lloyd Wright’s Destroyed Banff Pavilion Be Reborn? | Architectural Digest

                            https://www.architecturaldigest.com/...banff-pavilion



                            Team of professors join effort to rebuild Frank Lloyd Wright pavilion in Banff | Calgary Herald

                            http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-...ity-professors
                            Last edited by KC; 25-02-2018, 07:37 PM.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Capital Modern website - years later:

                              http://capitalmodernedmonton.com

                              http://capitalmodernedmonton.com/cat...dings-by-area/
                              Last edited by KC; 25-02-2018, 07:44 PM.

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