Corner Pieces (Banff) | words and posters

Corner Pieces (Banff) | Banff Avenue


Banff Elementary School

At a school similar to this one in Anoka, MN, 1098 km from here, Janet Schoppe’s first grade class was recently terrorized by an eight-point buck that leapt through the window during morning sentence review. The animals are going after the children. A cougar in the hallway of Adams Elementary in Spokane, WA—only 413 km from Banff—singled out the smallest boy from the crowd and fatally crushed his throat. And few Albertans will forget that nasty business with the black bear in the schoolyard outside Parkland, just two hours away, where the boy died as he tried to rescue his sister. It is in times of crisis that we rediscover our families. Walking home from school, I screamed in terror as a crow pecked my face and hands until my brother saved me, chasing it away. I love you, Michael. But birds are not coyotes, and just a few months ago two of them got inside a storage room in a daycare in Picture Butte, and were eventually shot. The boy’s sister remains severely disfigured. It really makes one think —especially here in Banff, where the animals convene at the edge of the forest, just beyond the playing field. We know herbivores can turn predatory when survival is in question, and it is clear we are not doing our children any favours by sweetening and buttering them up under the guise of vending machine educational revenue. We all know the expression ‘like babes in the woods.’ The animals are hungry and irritable and, unless something is changed, the children of this school will certainly become the latest recipients of their protest.


Corner Pieces (Banff) | The Banff Pavilion

This is the infamous site of Frank Lloyd Wright’s third and final Canadian building, the Banff Pavilion. It was on this marshy ground, where the tennis courts now sit, that the large indoor recreation hall opened to public outcry and scorn in 1913. Long and airy, perhaps a little pretentious with three large fireplaces, the pavilion was quickly declared impractical, uncomfortable and ugly. Admittedly, there is something not right about this area, and it is easy to imagine the water damage and dry rot that quickly overtook the building, a chateau on quicksand. You can smell the decay here. In fact, there was something cancerous about the Banff Pavilion, as were a number of Wright’s projects from the same era. In 1911, when Wright won the Banff commission, he was preoccupied with Taliesin, the protective bastion he was building in Spring Green, Wisconsin, for his lover Mamah Borthwick Cheney, the wife of a former client. The smell was there too, a sharp odorous rot built into the structure itself, as if somewhere in Wright’s mind, he knew he was losing a silent battle with fear, and it was spilling into his work. Some of us know this fear and recognize its acrid scent, but for Wright and Cheney the smell had floated around them so long it had become undetectable. This wasn’t the case for their friends, some of who stopped visiting Taliesin altogether. And certainly not for Julian Carleton, their servant from Barbados. In 1914, just as the Banff Pavilion was showing its first signs of decomposition, the smell of Taliesin drove Carleton crazy. He killed Cheney and two of her children before setting fire to the building. The pavilion that used to stand in front of you was demolished in the early 1930s. The last remains of the pavilion sank into the wet earth and finally disappeared for good in late 1964.

Informal Architectures | Geist #56 | | collected in Corner Pieces.

Text/Images: Lance Blomgren