Thoughts on our Fair City

A few months ago, I witnessed a good illustration of a thing I find confusing about being Calgarian (and more generally, human). I was at a paint-it-yourself pottery studio and there was a children’s birthday party happening at the same time. One girl announced she was gathering paper for recycling, and one of the chaperones said, “Heyyyy there little miss environmentalist, do you know what your dad does for a living?” 

It’s not the first time I’ve heard this sentiment, and it’s unlikely to be the last. It almost literally screams “do not bite the hand that feeds you,” but what does this actually mean? My childhood was in some way funded by oil and gas, and so it is absolutely hypocritical and/or sacrilegious to deviate to the side where the grass is green? Fortunately I don’t think I’ll be asked to leave a family dinner for my views on bike lanes anytime soon, but this does extend to Calgary as a whole. Can we have progressive, sustainable planning practices in a city which hosts the headquarters of over 100 oil and gas companies? 

What I’m trying to get at here: how do the dominant perceptions of your city shape your everyday urban experience? Chris Turner’s “Calgary Reconsidered” provides some insight and shows that Calgary is so much more than it’s “Cowtown” moniker. I hope our readers already know that, but the (lengthy) piece allows for a solid exploration of what makes this city special; the attitude inspired by erratic weather patterns, our short and strange history, and a ton of things urban aficionados might find interesting like the urban form, privatization of space, and Calgary could’ve-beens. 

And now, for one such could’ve-been: international planner Thomas Mawson made these plans for Calgary in the early 20th century, and they have been housed at the University of Calgary’s Architectural Archives since they were found glued to the wallboards of a garage in the 1970s. They are digitized and available online – unfortunately they’re quite small, but do allow the opportunity to imagine a slightly different Calgary. 

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If you’d like to talk about any of these ideas, cities in general, being an urban studies student, or just chat with some fellow students outside of class, be sure to join us at our mixer next Thursday, November 28th! 6-9PM at the Last Defence Lounge.

 

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