Walmart, Stephen Fry And Uglification

Walmart Bakery

The image above is a stitched-together series of photos taken just inside the entrance to that new Walmart. I took them during my epic journey out to Harbour Landing for the last issue.

Doesn’t it just go to show how a quantity of festive blue and white balloons can make you forget you’re inside a dingy, gray warehouse?

It puts me in mind of a quote from that Stephen Fry interview from the Sunday Edition where he talks about how so much North American architecture feels slapdash, temporary and unfinished — as if we’re still living on the frontier, throwing up shacks wherever there’s a buck to be earned, leaving ghost towns in our wake. Carle mentioned it in her architecture of the dome post. Here’s Fry:

“If you look out of the window in the continental United States and in North America generally, everything is stunningly beautiful that nature has done, and that’s true in the world, whatever it is, in nature, it seems to us incontestably and unconditionally lovely. We find it simply beautiful. And the only things we ever see that are ugly when we look out are things we have made. And if generations of children grow up believing that they belong to a species that can only uglify, that has no role in making things beautiful, that cannot with its own hands and its own ingenuity make things that are lovely, only things that are at best serviceable and at worst hideous and an imposition and a blot and an insult to the nature into which we were born, then there’s a guilt, there’s a self oppressing guilt that the entire species feels, that we all feel because we feel that we are a worthless race. We don’t beautify. We uglify. And there is no excuse for that.”

Well said.

And that puts me in mind of when, back around the time our famous library issue came out, someone asked me why I thought buildings needed to be beautiful. I think the point of the question was to say, “Shouldn’t the inside be all we care about? The outside, that’s just extravagance.”

If only I’d heard the Stephen Fry interview before I’d been asked that question, I might have had a coherent response at the ready.

Anyway, seeing as contemporary architecture — and how it rots — is on my mind, I should mention that over on the Regina Urban Ecology blog, they have a couple posts on the Grenfell Apartments and what replaced them. It’s a little depressing but worth a look.

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5’10” tall and he was born in a place. He’s not there now. He’s sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It’s “Girl From Ipanema”, thanks for asking.

You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.