Calgary's First Fire Hall Ready to Turn Up the Heat on Summer Fun
Art and music under a new pergola will bring new life to 110-year-old Fire Hall No. 1 outdoor courtyard
Calgary’s go-to team of city-building placemakers is reinvigorating one of downtown’s oldest landmarks.
To transform the outdoor space around Calgary’s Historic Fire Hall No. 1 into one of the city’s hottest destinations, Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) in partnership with the City of Calgary is reimagining the exterior of the historic site into a vibrant artistic space that will enliven the currently vacant area. The design features a temporary pergola—a tall steel structure whose overhead framework provides a space for art to shine and stage for performers —alongside the historic building. The area around the pergola will be dotted with picnic tables, turning the whole site into a welcoming gathering place for urban explorers and art enthusiasts.
Located at 6th Avenue and 1st Street SE—a prime corner in the heart of downtown—the new pergola was designed by Works of Architecture and built by Ryan Murphy Construction. CMLC engaged local artists, Emma McCaul and Jessie St. Clair of Calgary’s Moonlight Collab to help enliven the space. The duo will be hanging an art installation titled Escape, which includes a collection of hand made and hand painted ladders at varying heights. The inspiration of this piece was drawn from the Fire Hall itself, using thematic elements like ladders and ropes. Each ladder is adorned with layers of paint, paper, and hand-written messages. The art piece explores the ladder as a means of escape; inviting the viewer to escape their everyday ordinary surroundings and journey into a playful realm of art and wonder.
“This historic outdoor space offers another great opportunity for discovery in our captivating city,” says Clare LePan, CMLC’s Vice President of Marketing & Communications. “This site offered a great opportunity to consider an adaptive reuse of the space while longer term activation of the historic building is still being determined. We are proud to be working along side our partners on this project that showcases a creative design intervention that builds on the vibrancy of downtown.”
This downtown landmark will provide Calgarians with a perfect backdrop for outdoor gatherings—a unique and eye-catching space that will grace social media feeds, delight the senses and invite in-person connections by locals and visitors until the end of September.
Ward 7 Councillor Druh Farrell has been driving attention toward this site since the NW Travellers Building was secured as part of the cultural commitment for the Bow Tower nearly a decade ago. “Activating this block of beautiful but neglected heritage buildings has the potential to light a much-needed spark in this area, says Councillor Farrell. “A little creativity goes a long way when it comes to creating vibrancy in our downtown and this project is an example of that type of activation.”
Jennifer Thompson, The City of Calgary’s Acting Manager of Arts & Culture, sees the activation as a positive step in shifting our downtown from vacancy to vibrancy. “It is wonderful to see the outdoor space at our city’s first Fire Hall repurposed to serve Calgarians in a brand-new way,” says Jennifer. “This partnership with CMLC supports The City’s efforts to create more opportunities for people to come downtown and enjoy the arts, while supporting local businesses, and injecting some fun and vibrancy into the community.”
A season of fun under the pergola will get started on Saturday, August 7, with a kick-off event that brings the new destination dramatically to life with live music and a new art installation.
Presented in partnership with Arts Commons and Foreignerz, the event will run from 1:00 to 5:00 pm. Arts Commons will delight the audience with a special edition of their ArtsXpeditions series, featuring Tim Tamashiro, Chantal Chagnon & Dancers, Perpetual Nwaefido Trio and friends. Local artists from Foreignerz, a creative house who pushes the boundaries in art, music and film will be painting murals during the event. The art will be inspired by the history of the site and build on the theme of escape.
Following the event, The City will be hosting weekly Saturday evening performances at the Fire Hall outdoor courtyard in August and September. For more information, visit the Historic Fire Hall Performance Series (calgary.ca)