Sep 13

Downtown Calgary’s Catwalk-ready Architecture

by Maureen Hodgan · 0 comments

On a tour of Eighth Avenue with the Happy Urbanist

With the arrival of VOGUE’s annual weightiest issue, September is the month for fashion and style. In the way the gaze of fashionistas everywhere have turned towards the latest chunky cable knit Prada sweater, this month my view has been set on the stylish architectural projects popping up all over downtown.

It’s slightly rude to mention, but Calgary was looking like she needed a little ‘work’. I’m happy to see that some forward thinking architects/designers are adding nips and tucks where needed. In only the way buildings can do, stylish surroundings are so inspirational to both style setters and regular folk alike. They engage us like no boot-cut plaid trouser ever could.

At 58 stories, the statuesque supermodel of downtown buildings has got to be the Bow, Encana’s new headquarters designed by British firm Foster + Partners. Located between 5th and 7th Avenues and Centre Street and 1st Street SE, I’ve got a great view of it from my window (I’m looking at it now!). Its exterior steel grid of giant X’s worn like a new outfit, wouldn’t look out of place in British VOGUE. Gorgeous! Start your style tour here.

Photo Credit: Frances Foto

A short distance from the tower, the style walk continues with a mix of heritage and brand spanking new construction. Stephen Avenue (named after the first Canadian Pacific Railway president Lord George Mount Stephen) offers a plethora of stylish structures to eat, drink, shop, work or just plain hang out in. Begin at Fashion Central, a great retro-fitted heritage building, The Alberta Block (from 1903), with great ‘bone structure’, it houses one of the best places to have a coffee while contemplating your potential fall fashion purchases – deVille Luxury Coffee & Pastries. Many of you know about deVille already from their other two locations in the city, but if you haven’t tried this one, I highly recommend it for its fantastic location (good for both stylish people watching and great architectural viewing). They’re website teasingly mentions that perhaps they have spent too much time on décor, music, food and beverage offerings – all I can say is thank you for spending too much time on it!

I know whenever I’m at deVille, my thoughts wander to the building kitty corner on 8th Avenue – the old Bank of Montreal building (1931) that has been vacant since A&B Sound moved out. Note to any cool retail developers out there – wouldn’t this make a divine spot for a Barney’s or similar style boutique? Just putting the idea out there. You never know who’s reading your blog.

Once you’ve downed your espresso, carry on to the work-in-progress CORE TD Square/Holt Renfrew. Formerly the Eaton’s Centre and TD Square, this retail paradise is getting a major facelift including the addition of an impressive three-city-block span of seamless glass ceiling. This multi-block renovation on Stephen Avenue includes the re-design of the 1977 Devonian Gardens. An extremely forward thinking architectural group Eleven Eleven has come up with a beautiful new look for this urban garden. If you can’t wait until spring of 2011 to see it, check out their website for a glimpse of what’s to come. You’re going to want a new outfit for this one.

Holt Renfrew anchors the core with its gleaming glass full-length street level windows. My only regret here is that they didn’t include a café (as in the Bloor street location). Sorry all you Sears fans, but Holts is so much easier on the eyes. No need to mention it’s a great place to shop for the aforementioned September fashions. While you are there, pop into their former digs, now the cathedral to all things preppy, Brooks Brothers. Take along your copy of Lisa Burnbach’s True Prep, the update to The Official Preppy Handbook of 1980 and you’ll fit right in.

If your heels aren’t too high and you can keep going, don’t forget to check out the nearby Eighth Avenue Place. Under construction since the summer of 2008, I was sad to see Penny Lane go but am hopeful that the glass townhouse-style spots for street level retail won’t disappoint. Designed by Gibbs Gage architects, visit their website to get a peek at the future vision.

I haven’t even mentioned chic spots for eating on Stephen Avenue –  My top pick for the most stylish setting has got to be the marble bar at Teatro, in the Beautiful Beaux-Arts Dominion Bank building (1911). That tremendous ceiling height brings a breath of fresh air. And with your first sip of Campari, you’re transported to Milan.  If you’re in the mood for something more cosy, I suggest Mango Shiva, for a modern take on Indian cuisine and design. Vindiloo-cool.

So now you know. The key piece for fall isn’t just something you wear.

It’s where you wear it.

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