Client: Fort Calgary
Location: Calgary, AB, Canada
Completion date: 2015
Artwork budget: $1,200,000
Jill Anholt Studio
Carson McCulloch Landscape Architects
Heavy Industries Ltd
This artwork commemorates the outline and memory of the original 1875 NWMP Fort that marked Calgary’s origin. Created from a series of carved wood members punctuated with traces of red light, the installation embodies the impermanence and dynamic energy of the original Fort; a place of confluence and change where not just the Bow and the Elbow rivers merge, but also where many different people came together to envision a new beginning. The new Fort interpretation brings structure, nature and culture together in a composition that is respectful of the past yet evocative of the transiency of memory and time.
The work preserves the natural prairie landscape as an element that both punctures and moves through the walls of the artwork. Inspired by the undulating shapes that form and dissolve in a field of prairie grasses as the wind blows across them, silhouettes of a diverse collection of people from the past, present and future of Calgary likewise form and disappear within the wood elements of the contemporary
palisade. The goal for the project was to create a commemoration of the 1875 Fort that was not a literal representation of what was once there, but rather captured the memory and marking of the original structure that only stood for a few short years before it fell down. The building was never a “fort” in the sense of a defensive building but rather was a meeting place for many different cultures, civilians and the Northwest Mounted Police, all of whom had a role in the birth of the city of Calgary. Symbolizing this history was a major goal of the integration of this work into the project.
The artist was brought onto the project early in the process and a strong collaboration between the client and landscape architect existed throughout the entire project so that the artwork was integrated into the site and also met the goals of the client in terms of the interpretive message it presented.
The project won a 2016 Calgary Lions Award for Heritage in the Landscape Architecture Category.