Stephen Avenue is a National Historic Site of Canada, and losing these buildings would be an irreparable blow to Calgary’s historical resources. The avenue is distinct in its rich history and diverse variety of architectural styles, and is one of the most vibrant parts of Calgary. The proposed development puts this at risk.
Façadism is not enough to preserve heritage value
Façadism is when only the front (or façade) of a building is retained, and the rest of the building is demolished. A façade is not a historical building – façadism removes critical character defining elements*, pretending that the building’s cultural and architectural worth is only as deep as its façade, and ignores the interior that has housed so much history. Reducing a building to a mere façade may disqualify it from ever being designated and protected into the future.
Façadism is not in the best interest of heritage, citizens, or cities – instead, it is “…a tactic for developers to boost profits off the back of built heritage.”
In fact, the proposed tower will hang over the façades, not even preserving the current streetscape.
*CHARACTER DEFINING ELEMENTS
To be listed on the Inventory a resource must meet one or more of the following criteria: (i) Activity, (ii) Event, (iii) Institution, (iv) Person/people, (v) Style, (vi) Design, (vii) Construction, (viii) Landmark, (ix) Symbolic value. Learn more about The Standards & Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada
De-designation undermines the heritage protection system
The only protection that historical buildings in Calgary can receive is to be designated as a historical resource. This designation is theoretically supposed to preserve a building’s character-defining elements, so that the city and its citizens can enjoy the historical resource in perpetuity. However, the Stephen Avenue development would require designation being revoked from many of the buildings involved, which if allowed would show that this “protection” can arbitrarily be removed. De-designating these buildings, some of Calgary’s most iconic and treasured historical resources, sets an alarming precedent for the protection of any built heritage in the future.
7th avenue would be reduced to a glass wall
The development would demolish nine historical buildings along 7th avenue, and replace these with what is essentially a glass wall. These historical buildings should be revitalized, not demolished. Monolithic walls do not make for livable cities – for instance, renowned urban designer Jan Gehl found in a study that people tend to rush past uniform façades but linger near more varied façades: “if you have a blank wall or just glass…you can, as a human being, do nothing and there’s no interest.”
The monolithic façade proposed in this development would therefore actively work against revitalizing this block, while destroying historical resources in the process.
Heritage > a tall building
Upon completion, the development promises the tallest tower in Western Canada. While this might sound impressive, it is no reason to sacrifice an avenue with such historical, architectural, and cultural value. A building is the “tallest” only for a few years*, and is inevitably surpassed by some other skyscraper.
The unique history and vibrancy that Stephen Avenue already has is far rarer than a tall building, and is worth protecting.
Why you should care about heritage conservation
Heritage conservation is environmentally sustainable – the Canadian demolition and construction industry generates 4 million tonnes of waste annually (the equivalent of throwing away about 80,000 homes per year). Building new structures also requires more resources.
There are economic benefits to heritage buildings. Historical buildings contribute to a more walkable environment that supports a large number of smaller-scale businesses (furthermore, studies show that areas with more small-scale businesses typically also feature more businesses owned by women and minorities, an added social benefit). Historic buildings are also a draw for the tourism and film industries.