Beyond the Wall
We are gawking at a 10-metre-tall ribbed concrete wall that straddles one of the oldest buildings on UCalgary's main campus and one of the newest. But appearances can be deceiving. You could mistake this thick slab of greyness for an exterior wall and, once upon a time, you would have been correct. However, like so many areas on our 50-year-old campus, things and purposes change. Today, this piece of Brutalist architecture is inside a space that is full of pretty things things that pop with colour and movement, reminiscent of what blows in the wind in Newfoundland Tourism advertisements (that is, indeed, a clue!).
This mysterious space, named after a generous male donor, has led a long and circuitous life. Its original home, constructed in 1979, was a field away. While both spaces remain about the same size (12,000 sq. ft.), it's the new storage area that is so much larger. Plus, the new area has a dedicated loading dock, which is a huge deal considering the number and size of goods that move in and out of this area. Some of the goods may be local, while others may hail from as far away as China and Uzbekistan. Depending on the wares, some pieces may do time in the space's backroom deep freeze.
Last year, about 22,000 people (an even split between students/staff and the general public) took a detour off one of the busiest intersections on campus into one of the three areas that occupy this campus space. Dubbed "dynamic," this area is consistently in flux the walls can be reconfigured like giant Lego pieces and the content in these fluid floor plans can change up to 12 times a year. Seeing that we are giving out clues, here's another: a few years ago, this area was home to a big latex lighthouse. And, not so long ago, part of it was zigzagged with clotheslines full of summer frocks.
If you pop in at noon on a Thursday you'll see scores of people listening to a speaker. Once a month, on Saturday afternoons, workshops with the City of Calgary also occur here, as do numerous receptions that salute what in this space and beyond. Those lucky enough to get a backstage tour will find cabinets, vaults and rows upon rows of thousands of things. Some items are hanging, others are rolled and some are several hundred years old. Here's another little-known fact: about 20,000 things are itty bitty and are kept in a vault.
If you trek upstairs, east of the wall, you'll find whitewashed rooms full of . . . well, you never know, exactly, what you'll find until you go a-wandering. As someone who toured me around this region said: Here, we tell stories with objects.
Or, you can just enjoy an existential Pink Floyd moment and rock out on The Wall. U
How to Play
Identify the cryptic location where the photograph was taken and you could win a $70 gift certificate to the University of Calgary MUSEO shop. Visit: ucalgarymag.ca/wherearewe-form