Today the Province of Alberta released a notice of intention to designate related to the Barron Building on page 4 of The Alberta Gazette as follows:
"Notice of Intent to Designate a Provincial Historic Resource
(Historical Resources Act)
File: Des. 2311
Notice is hereby given that sixty days from the date of service of this Notice and its publication in Alberta Gazette, the Minister of Culture intends to make an Order that the exterior of the site known as the:
Barron Building, situated on land legally described as:
Lots 21-28 Inclusive
Excepting Thereout All Mines and Minerals
and municipally located in Calgary, Alberta be designated as a Provincial Historic Resource under section 20 of the Historical Resources Act, RSA 2000 cH-9.
The reasons for the designation are as follows: The Barron Building has heritage significance as an excellent example of early high rise architecture in Alberta and for its incorporation of both Moderne and early International styles. It is also significant for its role in solidifying Calgary as the de facto headquarters of Alberta’s oil industry.
The Barron Building was built from 1949 to 1951 by Calgary lawyer, real estate developer and cinema house magnate Jacob Bell Barron. Originally, Barron intended to expand his network of cinemas by building an entertainment centre with a dance hall, bowling alley, restaurant and a luxurious cinema. However, following the discovery of oil at Leduc in February 1947, Barron foresaw a need for additional and more modern office space in Calgary, resulting in the planned entertainment centre becoming a large office building with a cinema.
Architect Jack Cawston, of the Calgary-based firm Cawston & Stevenson was commissioned to design the building. Cawston’s design for the Barron Building appears to be a fusion of the established Art Deco and Moderne styles and the newer international style. The Moderne style grew from the Art Deco movement and emphasizes strength, order and efficiency, while exuding a sense of restrained luxuriousness and technological prowess. Over the 1920s and 1930s skyscrapers of this style had become iconic symbols of technologically progressive and prosperous cities. Likely seeking to borrow this imagery, Cawston integrated many Art Deco and Moderne elements into his design. These styles are evident throughout the building, particularly through its high degree of symmetry; its tapered appearance, caused by the stepped backed or terraced construction of the upper floors; and the polished black granite cladding at street level. The Art Deco and Moderne styles are most evident in the central tower through its stark, nearly monochromatic appearance; the use of Tyndall limestone on the second and third stories; and its strong vertical orientation, which is communicated by four vertical bands of windows and the tall, narrow, aluminum-clad pilasters. Other details of the central tower, such as the low relief carvings at the base, the curved, stylized aluminum panels at the top and the geometrical highlights adorning the elevator house, clearly solidify its Art Deco and Moderne pedigree.
The east and west wings of the Barron Building are more in line with the International style, which had become popular in the post-war period. This style emphasized economy and function through extreme simplicity and rigid adherence to vertical and horizontal lines. These elements of the style are strongly evident in the Barron Building’s east and west wings, which are characterised by the lack of ornamentation and the horizontal banding of alternating buff-coloured brick and ribbon windows.
The International style reached the height of its popularity in the decades between the
1960s and 1980s and became a symbol of corporate power. The downtown core of many Canadian cities, particularly Calgary and Edmonton, still demonstrate the influence of the style. The Barron Building’s fusion of the older, iconic Art Deco and Moderne styles with the more contemporary International style is an interesting combination and likely communicates the desire of both the developer and architect to promote the economic strength, stability and rising importance of both the Barron Building and the city of Calgary.
Barron’s original desire was to build a new cinema to expand his network of movie houses in Calgary. Although the project was transformed from being an entertainment centre into an office building, a cinema was an integral part of the building. This is demonstrated today by the marquee as a structural extension of the concrete floor plate over the adjacent sidewalk. As Barron had foreseen, office space was desperately needed by the burgeoning oil industry in Alberta. By the early 1950s, the office space within the building was quickly leased by a number of companies related to the oil sector, notably Haliburton, Sun Oil, Mobil, Shell and Trans-Canada Pipelines. The success of the Barron Building in drawing these companies to Calgary inspired the construction of more and larger office buildings, confirming the city’s position as the epicentre of Alberta’s oil sector.
It is therefore considered that the preservation and protection of the resource is in the public interest.
Dated this 11th day of March, A.D. 2014.
David Link, Assistant Deputy Minister
For a direct link to the Gazette, click here: http://www.qp.alberta.ca/documents/gazette/2014/pdf/06_Mar31_Part1.pdf