While avant-garde modernism disrupted the art salons, architecture schools, and design studios of the world’s more sophisticated urban centres in the 20th century, Calgary slept through the cultural upheavals as a provincial backwater. Calgary’s initiation to modernism might be dated to February 13, 1947, when Imperial Oil blew in its famous well at Leduc. Or the 1948 football season, when Tom Brooks and Les Lear wrapped the Calgary Stampeders football team around an innovative and modernist-looking T-formation backfield to win the Grey Cup.
Calgarians embraced the modern age after the Second World War, taking modernism into the streets and into the suburbs. They went beyond art, architecture, and design, and redefined modernism to include homes, furniture, appliances, and cars. In the process, Calgarians democratized, feminized, and suburbanized modernism.
Suburban Modern examines controversies over “coloured” margarine and “mixed” drinking in post-war Calgary. It shows how new petro office buildings transformed the downtown skyline during the 1950s and 1960s, and how new bus lines, roads, and bridges changed the city’s transportation network. As the city sprawled horizontally to engulf its ever-expanding suburbs, shoppers deserted downtown for suburban malls. The book follows young couples into their post-war dream homes with modern furnishings and barbecue-appointed patios. Suburban Modern argues that the suburbs rather than the downtown defined Calgary’s approach to modernism.
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