Walk Leaders: Hussein Attya and Cornelia Turney
On May 3, 2015, at 10:30 am, under the guidance of The Urban Research Network (TURN), 23 people partook in the “Center City Walk” beginning at the base of the Calgary Tower. Heading north on Centre Street, the walk included stops at the iconic Bow Building, Sien Lok Park and Eau Claire Market, eventually turning south on 7th Street to include Century Gardens and finally a C-Train ride eastward, ending up back at the Tower. Lead by Hussein Attya and Cornelia Turney, VP’s of TURN, the Walk addressed different landmarks and instigated discussion surrounding urban planning, perception of space, pattern and morphology. Participants were engaged in discussions and shared their local individual experience and knowledge of the downtown core with others. This activity provided an opportunity for critical examination of the design and layout of Calgary, as well as different means to interpret this design through experience. The variety of backgrounds present in the group, including the walk leaders, offered a valuable experience from which to re-examine familiar and unfamiliar areas of the downtown core.
A memorable debate took place between Hussein and the participating group about the importance of human scale in urban space and how the Bow Building is affecting the eye-level of urban space users. Some of the participants argued that we should leave our prints for the next generation and hence the Bow Building isn’t bad in this context. It was a wonderful discussion rich in learning. In academia we hear from each other, never from other people about such deep philosophical notions of urban design. It was the first stop in the walk which gave me a “big push” to increase the dosage of technical information about the morphology of Calgary downtown.
During the debate it was said: “I agree that we should leave our prints to the next generation. But we should leave clean prints,” referring to the environmental disadvantages of very tall buildings on the surrounding environment and the psychological well being of urban space patrons.
Participants very much enjoyed the information and the new dimensions revealed for them during the walk. Discussions covered different aspects of the urban space which ranged from environment to humanity, to safety, to urban economies and aesthetic characteristics. It was informative for both participants and leaders alike.
The leaders of the walk were urban planners with backgrounds in Geomatics engineering and Architecture which provided the discussion with quite a bit of diversity in this sense. But even more exciting was that the participants were a nice combination of different career backgrounds and cultural backgrounds. Some of them were residents of the downtown so they provided valuable and interesting historical information about the walk path. Others had arrived a couple of years ago to Calgary (like the walk leaders!) and they talked about their experience of places similar to the walk path but in their original home cities.
I remember an interesting story told by a couple who chose Calgary as home 25 years ago. They are residents of the downtown. They said when they arrived in Calgary, they lived in one of the downtown hotels next to Century Gardens while they were looking for an apartment. They remembered not feeling comfortable going to the park, even during the day time. The park and the whole block was at a lower level than the sidewalk which impeded inter-visibility, making the park an ideal spot for some criminals. However, after the new development on 7th Avenue the park is much safer. They expressed their frustration that the city neglects such a lovely park inside the building forest of the downtown.