Found Spaces

JAS |

mC:t   2015.03.20    #makeCalgarytalk

In just over a week, the final submissions for the Calgary “Lost Spaces” Competition will be submitted for jury. For those who are unaware of the competition, the objective is to identify spaces within Calgary that have been forgotten or overlooked; these are spaces that pose a potential opportunity to increase the vibrancy, interest in and character of the city. The purpose of this particular post is not to focus on the numerous areas of Calgary that require aid and recovery, but to shed light on some of Calgary’s Found Spaces that have already established new life in once dingy, dark and potentially fearful spaces.

Kensington is a vibrant area known for pubs, boutique shopping, and inviting restaurants. However, relating back to an earlier post about the urban street wall, Kensington has had gaps in its continuity. Between the Ingear Building (a converted residential home) and the Kensington Plaza building, lies a forgotten lane way; this void has momentarily interrupted the street wall. The under-lit lane added nothing positive to the street; in fact, it was a potential space for negative activities. However, in recent months this space has been converted to provide a unique experience in Calgary. It has been transformed to accommodate a retrofitted shipping container that now houses a small kitchen and eatery which serves champagne and caviar to patrons nestled under faux fur blankets and heat lamps on Calgary’s cold winter evenings. Container Bar is an exciting dining concept that took advantage of opportunity where negativity once existed. It further enhances the experience of being in one of Calgary’s most vibrant communities by providing more activity ton the street and establishing a unique niche in both the restaurant experience and the urban fabric.

 

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These found spaces are not only found in areas with well-established, vibrant reputations. As many Calgarians know, the neighbourhood of Victoria Park has been viewed with many different perspectives; to some it’s the neighbourhood they grew up in, to others it was an area in need of urban renewal. Today it is a neighbourhood of new life and revival. But, it is not at the base of the new condo towers that are now growing the Calgary skyline that is of interest, but rather the forgotten pockets hidden amongst the old warehouse buildings that are particularly interesting. An old gravel parking lot situated behind the historic Biscuit Block houses the location of Village Ice Cream. Through the use of handmade ice cream, extended late hours, bright lights, and simple seating, Village Ice Cream has converted a forgotten and mono use-gravel lot into a destination for “villagers,” a term used by the establishment with regard to those who “who brave floods and hail storms and minus thirty degree weather to come in, slow down, talk and have a taste.” What Village Ice Cream has done and continues to do is act as the spark to a growing vibrant locale within the inner city; not simply by serving ice cream but by providing that essential third place, a place outside of our work and home, to meet and interact with others. A place where a village can grow!

 
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The Lost Spaces in Calgary do not need to be revitalized or even vitalized by the establishment of a retailer. Chinatown is known for its abundance of shops, cafes, restaurants and vital culture. An important piece of its urban fabric is the small laneway located along the east side of the Silver Dragon Restaurant on Third Avenue S.E. The elaborately painted laneway provides a beautified walkway for patrons to pass between the buildings to access the street from the parking area located behind the building. Traditionally, we avoid dark alleys; but this particular alley has turned into a space people are compelled to explore due to the effective use of street art.

 
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Lost spaces are found interest in every urban environment. They offer the opportunity to replace fearful, negative spaces with vibrant, appealing experiences. They add a new dimension to community living in both well-established and new neighbourhoods and are often a catalyst to urban growth.

JAS

 

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REFERENCES

Container Bar Image Credit:

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