Letter to the Editor
Red Deer could use more bold visionary landmark designers
Commentary reprinted from Red Deer Express (Tim Lasiuta)
September 8, 2010
Landmarks are funny things.
For thousands of years human beings have used landmarks in a variety
of ways. We use them in navigation, in historical contexts, for
inspiration of literature, songs and poetry, and frequently plan
trips around such attractions.
New York without Central Park? Paris without the Louvre? Moose Jaw
without the big moose? Don't think so.
But what do we have in Red Deer that could qualify as a landmark
that would draw people to our fair settlement and entice them to
bring out their cameras and snap away?
We have Fort Normandeau. We have the Michener Building atop Michener
We have the 'Onion' watertower on South Hill. We have the Cronquist
House at Bower Ponds, and for those with a hankering for 1900
architecture, 56 Street filled with the handiwork of Mr. Gaetz and
We have Heritage Ranch and the Kerry Wood Nature Centre. Downtown
boasts a beautifully restored bank turned jewelry store, and a
refunctioned railway station. Douglas Cardinal weighs in with our
best known architectural icon, Saint Mary's Catholic Church on 39
St. After that, what else?
Where are the bold designers whose visionary concepts shaped our
city? Where are the revolutionary thinkers who, given license and
responsibility to create a plan that incorporates both function and
form in perfect balance?
We have seen flashes of such creativity recently, with the Forth
Junction project. Paul Pettypiece and team have assembled an
attractive functional blend of past, present and future for the
The River Valley and Tributaries Park Concept is bold and deserves
broad support and encouragement. Rivers have always been the
lifeblood of any community, and always will be.
The City of Red Deer is to be commended for their efforts to make
City Hall Park an attractive place to gather and relax. Our park
system is extensive, well maintained, and readily accessible for the
majority of citizens.
All is not well however.
Consider our most recent additions to the city. Sweeping vistas of
natural prairie have been replaced by cookie cutter houses. Downtown
can now boast a 13-storey office tower with a small amount of style.
Our new neighbourhoods often appear to be carbon copies of other
areas, right down to the house designs, fit and finish.
The new city yards at Three Mile Bend are beautiful and 'modern' to
the core, but I really wonder how soon a century flood will render
the whole area unusable, and how desperately the ensuing reclamation
efforts will bankrupt Red Deer?
And then there is the Sorensen Station.
The long term plan to rebuild a downtown bus station complete with
parking above is admirable. The green concept built into the roof
and sides is timely and appreciated. Even the shiny side panels are
interesting, and attractive.
Form aside, the creation of a parking facility downtown without
support from a vibrant, private business, traffic generating small
scale economy is short sighted. In truth, the Ghost Project statues
generate more tourist interest than a bus terminal and are more
sustainable in the long haul.
Mr. Mann will forever conduct his beloved Red Deer Royals while our
downtown bus terminal becomes just another building that will
someday be replaced by an office tower, or phased out as public
transportation services fall out of style.
Creative architectural design should be our halcyon, not our
epitaph. Buildings, communities, and features should compel, rather
than repel public interest. We are best served by our communities
when our surroundings challenge us, not lull us into a false sense
of cosmetic surgery.
Tim Lasiuta, Red Deer