As part of the RAIC / AAA Festival of Architecture in Calgary, SPECTACLE curated and participated in OPEN HOUSE. Welcoming both visitors to Calgary and locals, SPECTACALE celebrated Calgary as a city of extremes, with film installation _EST and Skyline of Calgary hats.




SPECTACLE Bureau for Architecture and Urbanism


Calgary is a city of extremes. Rapid economic growth is driven by a strong primary-sector economy, mostly oil and natural gas. When it is booming, an abundance of work compels people to move to the city for work from around Canada and the world. In order to accommodate this rapid influx of people, buildings are constructed in haste and speculative low density urban extensions march inexorably into the natural and agricultural hinterlands. Intense sensations are triggered by temperature shifts of up to 50 degrees centigrade in a 24 hour period, by severe cold, and by unpredictable weather events including floods, hail and summer snowstorms. And, the city’s proximity to the mountains and its 1988 Olympic history perpetuates the image of an extreme outdoor adventure sports culture.


Powerful contrasts and contradictions in this City of Mosts allow Calgary to simultaneously occupy both ends of the spectrum in several scenarios. Although it is the corporate capital of a province known for some of the dirtiest technologies in the world (coal plants and oil sands), Calgary is repeatedly awarded the world’s cleanest city by Mercer Global Financial and HR Consulting. In a traditionally conservative province, both major cities are run by progressive mayors and the province is ruled by a progressive government. And, although Calgary is one of the highest earning cities in one of the highest earning countries in the world, it also Canada’s most expensive place to live.


At a certain moment, does an extreme image perpetuate itself? Can being the most of something, the something_est, perhaps become a mark of pride? On the Calgary Wikipedia page, you will find claims of the following _ests, in order of occurrence on the webpage:


Larg_est          x 25
Great_est         x 2
Fast_est           x 3
Warm_est        x 1
Dens_est          x 2
High_est          x 5
Low_est           x 1
Tall_est            x 5
B_est-known    x 1
Busi_est           x 4
B_est               x 1

Screenshots from _EST.