But what, some of my readers are asking, is the +15 system? This winter was a mild powder puff weenie of a winter. I think the coldest it got was -30 C or so (-22 F) for maybe a week or two. Nothing really worth talking about. Sometimes the winters here are brutal. There was one, back in '84 or so when it was colder than -40 for 6 weeks straight. That -40 was the daytime high, it was colder at night, and part of my job involved spraying water on metal that was supposed to be moving. Once I froze myself to a railing. But I digress.
A guy named Harold Hanen had the brilliant idea of connecting the buildings with a bridge above street level. They are about 15 feet above street level, so it's called the +15 system. Over the years the system grew. Now there are double decker, and even triple decker bridges. (+30 and +45, duh!) and connecting spaces within the buildings. There is about 16 Km (10 miles) of the system now, in one very large network, and two smaller ones. Once the new Bow building is complete one of the smaller networks will join the big one.
Anybody that works downtown loves the system, especially in winter. Well, except for the ones that think it detracts from a "vibrant" street life. There are times it's shorter or quicker to go through the system than to take the streets. The system is full of businesses. Many of them are integrated into the network, and sometimes the network was patched into existing buildings. There are ramps and stairs. I couldn't say how many coffee shops and the like there are, certainly many dozens. Aside from the several malls of the usual stores, there are dentists, doctors, travel agents, copy shops, and probably almost everything else under the sun. I know people that have refused a job because the company was not in a building on the network.
Much of this network is busy. There is a steady stream of people going back and forth, many carrying coffee, since everyone has their favourite place. It might be a block or two away, but so what? You don't have to go outside. You always see people chatting. With any luck they are out of the way of the herd. It is common to run into people you know; it happened to me today, which was nice. (Hi Sue!) When you're downtown it's much easier to stay in contact with people through coffee or lunch dates. When you work out in the boonies, as I have for years, lunch dates become a major ordeal.
You might have to embiggen the Map image to see the small red circles. These are either outdoor patios, several of which are fenced off for kid's day care, or are under construction. I either didn't go there or couldn't. Essentially I went everywhere else there is a blue line. The map isn't quite exact, especially how it represents space within the buildings. For example, the Shell building shows you can walk around the outside edge of the building, and that isn't true. There is a gym on the north side. There are several examples where a path is shown inside a building that doesn't exist anymore, or is planned but not built yet.
There is no easy efficient route to see it all with a minimum of footsteps, or if there is, I don't know it. During the day I was musing about the race in the London Underground. There is a contest to ride all the lines as fast as possible. I was thinking it would be fun to have something similar here. Lots of dead ends to deal with. Although the system is about 16 K long, and I don't know how that is measured. I think I probably walked about 20 K today, maybe more.
The system isn't all retail hell shopping. There are quiet nooks with comfy chairs if you know where to look. Sometimes there are buskers. At least some of the building owners have public art on display. There are at least two building models I know of. Today I wanted pictures of art either in the +15 or easily visible from it, plus some shots of the system itself or the nicer lobby spaces. Readers are invited to guess where the pieces are, if they don't know. I kept notes. If you really want to know I can tell you where all of them are. The Calatrava bridge is a special case and it's at the end.
Some of the art is quite large, as the following example shows. Others are quite small. This one is actually a real airplane, not a model.
Here, in no particular order, are the rest of the shots. There are some comments along the way, just because.
This is one of a sequence of frosted glass murals. Since I was touring the +15 system I thought it was appropriate to include this shot.
The lights move, adding to the floating effect.
As I said, in some cases they carved the system out of other buildings that had never imagined such a thing happening. Here's a place where you can see the original stone wall. There's a reason Calgary's nickname was Sandstone City.
This is a bit more detail on the original buildings for this section of the system.
I just had to take this shot. Calgary sunrises and sunset light up downtown in strange and magical ways that fascinate photographers.
The other direction from the same place.
This explains why "Damn the CPR!" used to be a common Canadian curse. When the CPR was laying out towns across the prairies, they ran the railroad tracks down the middle and built the small towns on one side, and the larger ones on either side. Calgary has several tracks running right through downtown. It makes for interesting building and parked construction.
I took a bunch of shots trying to get this right. It's a series of glass panes hanging from the ceiling. Here it's almost invisible, yet it makes quite an impact in real life.
I love the garden features in some buildings. This is a nice one.
A huge bronze horse surprised me as I was going up the escalator and I had to hurry to get the shot.
I watched my Grandfather do this. One of my very favorite photos of all time is one of him doing just this. It was taken by an amateur photographer by accident. I'm told he won several prizes, and only years later did he discover who it was. My Granny had the original, and my favourite cousin made a print for me. Yes, this one looks like he's ploughing up the floor tiles.
I worked in the building with this artwork.
This is what a dead end in the +15 system looks like. I only assume they are join to hook it up to the buildings on either side.
This was near the elevator bank I used lots.
I nearly tripped over this one day when I wasn't awake.
Yup, this is a living wall.
When you say "Devonian Gardens" many Calgarians sigh with happiness, then say "When will they ever finish the renovations?" Here's a very small section under construction. It looks like they are working on some pools. These gardens were huge, taking up a big chunk of +45 space, and some of the outsides of +30 and +15 space. It was a great place to go and eat lunch during the winter. You could see people soaking up humidity and the general atmosphere. The City made out like bandits on charging for wedding photos. Now it will be integrated with the food court.
It's hard to see, but there is a herd of deer running across the open area.
I just loved these huge snowflakes.
Here's an outside view of a triple decker bridge. That's all retail space you see in there, with a food court on the top level. Technically, the bridge I'm standing in isn't open to the public yet, but nobody was standing guard, and there was just a bit of ribbon blocking it off... This is the same bridge that I noted was a dead end above. I had to walk the long way around to get there.
I loved the Udderly Art fundraiser. There are still a bunch of cows around if you know where to look. Hint, on either side of this poster. And I had to walk outside to get from the glass to this poster, the bridge was closed for construction.
I've always liked this big statue of a Native Chief outside the building.
Somehow this photo makes this look much smaller than it is.
I used to work in this building, and always loved to visit the turtles. I'm happy they are still there and the Koi are much larger now.
Taking pictures of things enclosed in plastic cases is really hard.
Several blocks of long straight space. They built this above the alley, and there are branches on either side leading to various office buildings or parkades. I think this is the longest straight space in the entire system. Kind of boring, actually. I used to walk down it a lot.
This is one of my favourite buildings downtown. It looks like two buildings were merged together in a transporter accident and somehow didn't blow up.
There is no standard design for the 59 bridges. Some are utilitarian structures, some are beautiful and match the nearby buildings. Some you hardly know you're in a bridge. I think I hit all the indoor bridges open to the public and one that wasn't. There are several bridges open to the outside.
Sculpture, not a painting.
This is only part of a much larger mural.
I used to work in this building, and always liked this water feature.
This is one of two huge, HUGE living walls. You can see the guy in the lower left for scale.
Another nice water feature, and more garden beside and underneath the escalator.
These three paintings make me happy, I'm not sure why.
Now for the Cala-travesty, as I call it. Normally I would like this bridge. It's a cheerful colour - a bright red that doesn't seem to show up in photos very well, an interesting design, and is wide enough to deal with bikes and pedestrians. But. It was chosen in a secretive process by a cabal of City Aldermen. It was very expensive. It was about a year and a half late. The entrance and exit are not graceful. The Memorial end is particularly brutal as you can see from the last photo. You make an abrupt left or right turn to get onto the path. If you want to actually cross Memorial Drive, which was the whole frakking point of the bridge in the first place, you have to walk 2 blocks to 10th Street or the LRT overpass, both of which are perfectly serviceable bridges for pedestrians and bikes. Cars go on one, and the train on the other. Without an integrated pedestrian crosswalk for Memorial Drive, the placement of this bridge is stupid. Already people are jaywalking. It's only a matter of time till someone gets run over.
This is the Memorial Drive end of the bridge.
And there you have it! I started about 6:45 in the morning. I stopped about 9 for a coffee and a muffin in a small isolated chunk of the system that I'm not sure I've ever been in, the one attached to the JJ Bowlen Building. I got some pizza for lunch and sat for a half hour watching the world go by and checking my email in Bow Valley Square. I finished up about 2pm, and hung out at Bankers Hall to meet up with a buddy, then walked to City Hall to get Linda.
All in all it was fun. I knew it would be a long walk, but my feet feel pretty good. This isn't all the art, not by a long shot. However, a few pieces I remember are not there anymore, and there isn't as much as I had expected in some of the newer sections.