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Parkdale Plaza’s art project aims to raise drainage awareness

WATCH: Parkdale Plaza is an ambitious concept and the latest installment of the Landscape of Memory along Memorial Drive. Doug Vaessen takes us on a tour of the plaza, which features a remarkable piece of art.

CALGARY – Parkdale Plaza is the latest installment of Memorial Drive’s Landscape of Memory—an ongoing project to commemorate the events and people that have shaped Calgary.

Workers were putting the finishing touches on the $3.5-million plaza on Wednesday, placing stones in uneven patterns to better drain water into the nearby Bow River.

But the real stormwater infrastructure is also the showstopper in the centre of the plaza: It’s called “Outflow” by New York artist Brian Tolle.

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“It’s the undulation and the lines in the stone…and it looks like snow because of the colour of it,” said Calgary’s manager of culture Sarah Iley. “So it really does have a very natural look.”

The art piece alone, manufactured in Calgary using special concrete, cost $1.8 million; 80 per cent of the budget will go to local suppliers.

Calgary’s Outflow art exhibit, located along the Bow River at the end of 34A St. N.W. Doug Vaessen / Global News

And along with the groundwater from nearby communities, it carries a message.

“The river is at the low point of the community, and all that water does go back to the river, so things in the water end up in the river,” said Calgary’s utility and environmental protection spokesperson Paul Fesko. “So it’s important we make personal decisions about what can go down the drainage system.”

The sculpture itself is a replica of an inverted Mount Peechee, a peak near Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park, “which is part of the Bow range which flows into the Bow River,” said Iley.

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“But we are getting our own up-close-and-personal view of the water running up the mountain and down into the river, which I think is just a fabulous concept.”

It’s called integrated public art, and is meant to show the delicate balance we share with nature.

“You get to see how the pipes do enter the river,” said Fesko. “That’s the part that is important to me. But to actually create a place where people can come see how that all works and create a very attractive place where you can sit down and look at the river—I think that’s another important piece.”

Calgarians can get a firsthand look when the city officially opens the plaza on Saturday, June 27.

For more information on the installation, visit the city’s website here.

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