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Modern Movement

Modern Architecture In Alberta Trevor Boddy in his Modern Architecture in Alberta tracks the movement away from "historicism" in building design to the Modern Movement. He also provides insight into building techniques by noting that the early waves of immigration brought many masons, sculptors, carpenters, furniture makers and other craftsmen to Alberta. Scottish masons were responsible for Calgary's fine sandstone buildings. These craftsmen were hard hit by the post-war Depression and many left the province. He notes,

Pre-war Calgary and district boasted five sandstone quarries. By the late twenties only one remained. Brick factories in Medicine Hat and Edmonton were only just able to hold their own through this bleak period. Lathe-turned wooden columns were rarely found in the houses of the twenties while they had been inexpensive and common a decade earlier. Custom-sculpted elements such as the sandstone Ionic columns from a Medicine Hat house virtually disappeared.

He notes that Alberta has experienced intense bursts of building alternating with virtually no construction. The result was that "few architects' practices weathered the mad roller coaster of boom and bust, and Alberta architecture has repeatedly suffered because its best designers have left the profession or the province when times got rough."

Capital Modern Poster Boddy provides a thorough examination of the principal styles of the Modern Movement in Alberta including the Stucco Vernacular architecture popular in the 1920s and 1930s. These "planar, whitewashed, round-cornered stucco houses and commercial buildings" can be found throughout Alberta. He notes the spread of popular house designs through builders' and home magazines in the 1930s: "With their progressive imagery of streamlined cars, ocean liners and airplanes, Hollywood movies and such mass magazines as Look and Life probably did more to foster the rise of Modern architecture than did any of Le Corbusier's polemical writings." The late 1930s saw the building of many "modernistic cinemas" in central and northern Alberta towns by the practice of Rule, Wynn and Rule including the Varscona Theatre in Edmonton.

But, it is in the 1960s that, according to Boddy, an "Alberta architecture" evolved, which was Late or Post-Modern in nature. These include the Calgary Centennial Planetarium (architects Hugh MacMillan and Jack Long), Edmonton Art Gallery (architect Don Bittorf) and the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff (architect Phlippe Delesalle). Finally, Douglas Cardinal added some striking buildings to several Alberta communities before going on to build the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa and undertake international commissions. Boddy notes:

The inspiration for Cardinal's radical architecture, however, lies more in the history of his own discipline than in his ethnic background [Cardinal is Métis]. Cardinal calls his work "Modern Baroque" in contradistinction to the Mannerist trend as such Post-Modern architects as Philip Johnson, Charles Moore, or Michael Graves. Cardinal Argues that the end of a classical tradition in architectural history has led inevitably to either Mannerism or the Baroque, his prime example being the modification of Renaissance architecture into these two traditions. His personal and political sensibilities lead him towards the sensualism of the latter over the intellectualism of the former.
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