Do you ever spend time wondering what your city will be like in 20 years? I think about this possibly more than most people, because the city that I grew up in is so incredibly new. Calgary is only 100 years old, and has changed so much since the first time I moved there. Seeing how things change, it impossible not to wonder how things will be in the future.
For example, a number of high-rise buildings in downtown Calgary were built with very little parking, as there was land/empty parking lots in every direction. How short-sighted were the people designing those buildings to have not been able to imagine a future where there would be other high-rise buildings where those parking lots were?
Where I live now, there are amazing, beautiful buildings that have been abandoned for years, covered in graffiti and hiding all kinds of terrible secrets. These buildings though, they have presence. Within walking distance of me in Philadelphia, is The Divine Lorraine, a building with enough character to write a book and one of those buildings that you just can’t get out of your head. I look at it, all broken and weary, and imagine what the lives were like of the people who lived there. What the neighborhood was like, what people wore and what they ate for dinner.
I then look to the new buildings I see going up, from the mirrored, smooth high-rise across the street, to the cookie cutter houses in the suburbs where I work. I see them and consider that they are nice enough. Nice enough to live or work in, but not good enough to inspire.
In comparison, I see the new building for the Barnes Foundation and I want more. I want to explore it, to look at the art and hear about how the building was designed. I see the peace bridge in Calgary and I feel pride. I imagine people crossing it every day, going to work and coming home. I wonder if they stop to consider how interesting it is and how it has created this bond with other cities that also have Santiago Calatrava designed structures. I want to visit Milwaukee now, solely because of the Peace Bridge in Calgary.
I like how these buildings and structures make me think and I like that they push us forward. If we aren’t striving to build something unique, something taller, more efficient or more beautiful, we are stuck. We are saying our city isn’t worth being inspired, nor is it worth being inspiring.
I believe in my city. I want to invest in its future.