Saturday evening traffic was light along Andrew Davison Drive on a diagonal beeline to the Alberta Performing Arts Centre on Prince’s Island. We couldn’t find a spot anywhere closer than the Old Calgary Market, so my wife and I had to walk all the way from 9th Avenue in the rain, with one umbrella between us, not large enough to share. Every time we left the bone-dry arcades and crossed through the intersection I got drenched. After the ballet, we left the island and got splashed again by a bachelorette party running out of the civic plaza fountain. It took a few glasses of shiraz at the Calgary Station’s wine bar back on 9th to restore my mood.
That’s a decent night on the town in the modern-day Calgary that Thomas Mawson sketched out a century ago, in the first civic plan for the city. It was designed to take a a 50,000-person rail outpost with a promising cowboy festival and stockyards, and turn it into Vienna on the Bow.
It was bold. Beautiful. Neo-classical. Doomed to fail, and destined to inspire generations of local planners after him.
Thomas Mawson, a British horticulturalist with a knack for urban vision, had his commissioned A Preliminary Scheme for Controlling the Economic Growth of the City first broadcast to citizens in the Calgary Herald on April 30, 1914. One hundred years ago today.