Capital Modern

Capital Modern Exhibition and Symposium at the Art Gallery of Alberta

all photos by James Dow AAA (Hon.), RAIC, RCA

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The Art Gallery of Alberta in partnership with the Media, Art and Design Exposed (MADE), organized an exhibition in 2007 that tells the story about the rise of modern architecture in Edmonton. There was a bus tour and visit to some of the city’s remaining modern landmarks during the annual Historic Edmonton Week event at the end of July 2007. The exhibition was launched with a public symposium to discuss Edmonton Modernism in the context of Edmonton’s post-war culture and, in general, the world-wide Modern Movement.

The Exhibition

Like many cities across Canada, Edmonton has a wealth of modern architecture that is under-appreciated, yet very significant. Edmonton was a leader in modern building during the 1950s and 1960s due to the oil boom, which spurred development and created a desire within city planners and businesses to appear modern and progressive. The exhibition, titled Capital Modern – Edmonton Architecture and Urban Design 1940–1969, was curated by Edmonton architects Shafraaz Kaba, Troy Smith and David Murray, and drew upon a collection of new photographs by James Dow. Fifty post-war buildings were re-photographed and featured in the exhibition, as well as numerous archival photos, original drawings, furniture. and artworks from the AGA collection. Six models of important buildings were commissioned. It was intended that, in highlighting this modern legacy, the exhibition foster an appreciation in all Edmontonians for their built heritage and encourage participation in the preservation of Edmonton’s remaining Modernist buildings. The exhibition was also intended to honour many of the architects who were practicing at the time and to paint a picture of the creative architecture culture that emerged after World War Two.

Symposium: Making the Modern

The Symposium that preceded the AGA exhibition explored Modernism, a very diverse 20th Century worldwide cultural movement, and how modernist architecture can be better understood and appreciated by the public. Kenneth Frampton, noted historian, critic and author delivered the keynote address. Invited architects included the former Edmontonian John Patkau from Vancouver, Fred Valentine from Calgary, Brigitte Shim from Toronto and Brian MacKay-Lyons from Vancouver. Architectural critic Trevor Boddy moderated the proceedings. The invited architects presented their views on Modernism and the influences that have directed and informed their careers.

The Team:

Photos: James Dow AAA (hon), RAIC, RCA

Catherine Crowston (AGA), Shafraaz Kaba AAA, Troy Smith AAA, David Murray AAA, Trevor Boddy M.Arch., Marianne Fedori