What Those Red Sentinels By the East Village Mean

The red towers have risen in the East Village and they’re a meaningful addition to the area

Photo by Mark Eleven Photography. Photo extended in courtesy by Calgary Municipal Land Corporation.

The Calgary Municipal Land Corporation has been working for years to rejuvenate the East Village. Now, The Edges project comes to a close with the official opening of the Fort Calgary Sentinels. We spoke with Susan Veres, the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at the MLC, to find out more about why these were built, how they were built and what they mean for Calgarians.

The whole project

The Fort Calgary Sentinels – often just referred to as the Sentinels – are not a project on their own, but part of a larger master plan. “We’re involved in the development of the East Village and part of the plan was to the look at the edges of the East Village,” says Veres. “We wanted to look at how to treat the edges of the East Village for a seamless transition between that urban space and park space that is Fort Calgary.”

And the result is what Veres called “a gateway feature.” RiverWalk, which has been in the works for 7 years now, was created to benefit both the East Village and Fort Calgary. The first stage of this project opened last year. The red bunkers along 6 Street were also planned to serve both areas and act as a gateway. “There’s now a linear park, which delineates Fort Calgary and the East Village,” says Veres, of the space that opened after 2 years of construction.

The Sentinels, which officially opened on July 24, are the finishing touch to The Edges’ park space.

What are the Sentinels?

If you ever travel along 9 Avenue, you’ve probably noticed five red pillars. The tallest of the pillars, which stands at 28 feet, is a marker of where you are: this is the Fort Calgary pillar. The additional four pillars act as a historical metaphor with each pillar representing a historical figure. Veres says that Captain Deane, Chief Crowfoot, Colonel Macleod and Alderman John Ayer are all Calgary pioneers, and therefore, are all pillars of the Calgary community.

These pillars are hard to miss. The smaller four pillars are 15 feet tall and weigh roughly 1,600 kilograms. The largest Fort Calgary pillar is 26 feet tall and weighs 4,500 kilograms.

Why they’re a cool addition to Fort Calgary

While the Sentinels clearly highlight Fort Calgary, the construction of the pillars themselves is interesting. The MLC called on the expertise of Calgary’s Heavy Industries to help with the project, as this is the first project of this kind to be constructed in the city.

“The pillars are all backlit,” says Veres. “So they’re not just artistic but they’re functional too.” The ambient lighting they provide will make the area brighter, safer and overall, a more attractive place to visit when the sun goes down.

The monoliths have also been constructed to be durable. The pillars’ main component – glass – has been manufactured specifically to handle Calgary’s extreme temperatures. According to the builders, “It’s virtually weather proof. This means this type of glass project also has a propensity for longevity.”

Each column has a different design in order to pay tribute to the pioneers it’s representing. The custom aesthetic is then protected by a glass pane, protecting it from graffiti and damage.

Why the Sentinels matter

The Sentinels are a creative addition to the area, but their purpose is more than just aesthetic. It’s also about respecting Fort Calgary and what it represents. “The Sentinels call out our history, which is important,” says Veres. “The project highlights where we come from and where we can go. We are honouring our history and where we all come from.”

The final touch to the CMLC’s edges project doesn’t just add to the aesthetics of this area. It’s also a permanent reminder of where our city came from and the people who were responsible for making it the kind of city we live in today.

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