Curious to Know Why, Not Just How
Written by : amery Calvelli // @amerycal
1. Born in Calgary or from somewhere else?
Both. I like walking around Bridgeland, where remnant bricks thread the memory of the Calgary General Hospital where I was born. My family moved south soon after, but I often try to imagine the presence the hospital once had. I’ve lived in a few other cities and moved to Calgary in 2010, by chance, as my partner had been relocated here.
2. How many books are currently in your ‘to read stack’ and what are they?
Over the holidays I finished Léa Gaulthier’s Design for Change, two wonderful books by Deyan Sudjic, and a small series of texts about spatial practice. I’m in the middle of a book called Speed Limits – which is not about driving – and started In Defense of Housing by David Madden and Peter Marcuse.
3. What’s your favourite building in Calgary and why?
I really like the collection of buildings across the LRT platform on 7th Avenue, between 1st Street SW and Centre Street. It’s a series of recently vacated single and two-storey storefronts with an adjacent sandstone church on the West side of the street.
Before, you could find pashmina scarves and the best outdoor patio and garlic fries in town, as well as, a gallery with a TV in the window screening silent black and white films.
I remember an artificial topiary tree or two on an awning and bubbles spilling from the second floor onto the sidewalk below. Waiting for the train was always entertaining with pithy phrases and observations full of irony and wit, chalked on the facade of one of the storefronts facing the platform. There was an element of the unexpected. The Palomino is still there, which is great, but waiting for the train lacks the quirkiness that used to play out along the block.
4. What three words best describe you. What words would others use to describe you?
Three words is a lot to ask. I think what fuels me most is curiosity. Curious to know why, not just how.
5. Who inspires you?
I met a stranger at a crosswalk today. He was clutching the rim of the garbage bin to steady himself while waiting for the pedestrian light. I asked if he was okay and he said that he’d seen better days. He smiled, thanked me for asking, then stretched a bit taller as the walk signal turned.
There will be struggles, but the inspiration is: onward.
I’ve yet to find a work by Louise Bourgeois that didn’t feel like it was opening a window to let fresh air into a room. I love her early spider drawings, The Cells, and the first Avenza latex sculpture that she wore. And that she continued to produce work at 98.
I’m also inspired by George Perec, a Polish Jew in Paris whose prose reveals a methodical detail-by-detail account of a work table, a street, of arranging books – I admire the skilled observation. Some say his day job at a Neurophysological Research Library may have contributed to his dexterity. And Morton Feldman. The The Viola in My Life, his music for Merce Cunningham and Samuel Beckett and Rothko Chapel… I can actually listen to Morton Feldman for entire days, which is handy since some of his compositions are measured in hours.
6. What is the one thing you can’t live without?
My partner John who keeps me sane and balanced, as is possible.
7. What inspired you to co-develop d.talks?
The handful of us that started d.talks in 2013 seemed to feel the same thing: that there wasn’t quite enough conversation around design and the urban environment.
We cared deeply about where we lived, but we sought more discourse, more exploration into what makes the city liveable.
We actually thought we might be starting this for ourselves but were delighted when other Calgarians also wanted to participate in the conversations. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that our love for our city has continued to grow – at least mine has, and I’m thankful to Maureen, Gerd, Jayda, James, Julie and Shannon as well as Ernest and Hyeseung who’ve done some heavy lifting on making d.talks what it is today. It really takes a village.
8. They say people change careers multiple times. What’s been your path?
Click on image to see in full size.
9. If you could live in any era which one would it be and why?
I can’t imagine living in a better time than the present.
10. What’s next for d.talks?
Last June, we launched a new online publication called FOLD and our robust volunteer team continues to produce new articles, reviews and photo essays for the publication. In fact, this project was developed by many evening meetings at TJG. (thisisthefold.org)
We’re at work on a Member’s Reception in February and in the midst of planning both the spring event and a PLACEHOLDER discussion in April. PLACEHOLDER is what we call an unconventional book club. It’s a collaboration with the Esker Foundation and an opportunity to hold more intimate discussions that have proved to be quite rich in content and participation. The topic will revolve around a theme drawn from the Esker’s February exhibition Kapwani Kiwanga: a wall is just a wall (and nothing more at all). We announce our events on our website (dtalks.org) and by email to our subscribers as usual. A sign-up for invitations can be found on our homepage.
And, we’re putting the finishing touches on video shorts from previous events to give a taste of the discussions (vimeo.com/dtalks). We’re always looking for curious minds to be involved with d.talks and if that’s you, please consider reaching out to us from the “contact us” page on our homepage.
amery Calvelli is a design advocate interested in the agency and effects of spatial practice. A Co-founder and Executive Director of the Design Talks Institute (d.talks) in Calgary, she works to advance the public understanding of art, architecture and design. She has consulted with creative practices to renew connections with place and for four years, she hosted radio and podcast interview program Space and Place. amery has served on the Boards of the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art and the SFMOMA’s Contemporary Extension for young professionals. Currently, she teaches Design History at the University of Calgary’s Continuing Education Program. Many moons ago, she worked for Comme des Garçons, Giorgio Armani, and Agnès b.
Photo Credit // Jesus Martin Ruiz
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