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LIVING WITH WINTER: INSIDE AND OUTSIDE Photo– Andriko Lozowy

ANDRIKO LOZOWY AND JIM MORROW Winter. Shunning the temporary relief of using a bus shelter against the cold, teenagers huddle in a close group to share a smoke. For them, it’s ritual—a daily act of defiance against a harsh climate that doesn’t relent for months on end. And the youth find comfort, solidarity even, in their shared rebellion. Their high school makes it clear that smoking is not allowed on the property. Some would say this image of youth smoking represents the trouble with teens and a permissive society. The cold breath of winter returns every year. It’s a fact of life, just as summer will have warm nights. Unlike other seasons, though, winter can bring people together. They come together to get away from the cold, to talk about it, share their stories and seek comfort in each other’s company. Winter builds community. And teens outside smoking in the cold is a community in action. From a planning perspective, it’s of note that architecture and policy have excluded those who smoke. The problem isn’t the act of smoking. It’s a wider issue, and smoking is the example of a failure in civic and architectural planning: As we move to cultivate space for one activity or another, we simultaneously eliminate

represent popular notions of health, fitness, activity, learning. Our cities aren’t built for winter. For several months of the year, infrastructure fails to meet the expectations of its design. Roads can’t keep cars between the ditches, and sidewalks freeze over, turning the simple act of walking into a complicated dance with no known steps. Our culture and our history failed to learn the lessons of those who lived and endured the winter of the Canadian Frostbelt before it was homesteaded by European settlers. Failure in the Frostbelt is about denial and misrecognition of opportunity disguised as bleak banality. Failure is about a lack of sensitivity to geographical place in relation to climate and season. The West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta, is an idealist exception to the rule of design’s winter failure: It’s a place where people from different communities congregate around a potlatch of consumption. The mall is a mutation of a traditional potlatch, where valuable exchanges of goods and skills took place—families would come together and spend the long, cold, dark winter surviving and sharing together. Now, days are spent in the safety of a controlled environment; people hunt for great deals and gather to resupply their stash. In the mall, activity is consumption

is time spent to the benefit of the community. The scene at a large indoor shopping centre stands as an affront to winter— a desperate attempt to promote a reality set apart from the cold of the season. The mall is a heated, enclosed shelter offering individuality, though at a cost and in a setting that’s an exclusive, private and controlled space. Inside its walls, life exists, but in a state of alterreality, where people busily pass each other by and do not make time to form community. The only thing they have in common is that they temporarily share the same space. Can we really consider a space such as West Edmonton Mall a benefit in a winter city? The mall does not laugh with winter. It can’t. It’s just a structure composed of multiple walls and an assortment of stores pushing wares made in far-off places. Malls and other enclosed spaces have become the idealized key response in a civic battle against a season that sees much of the population hunker down and brace against the wind. It is the final solution to a concerted effort not to go outside. In Fort McMurray, a booming northern Alberta community in the heart of the oilsands, new recreation facilities on MacDonald Island Park opened their doors emblazoned with civic, provincial

other forms of activity that may not

and exchange is for more goods—seldom

and corporate sponsorship. On most days

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CITY–REGION STUDIES CENTRE | University of Alberta

Profile for University of Alberta Extension

CURB Magazine 3.1  

Curb Magazine is about policy practice and community experiences in cities, regions, and rural areas. Curb is distributed to municipal offic...

CURB Magazine 3.1  

Curb Magazine is about policy practice and community experiences in cities, regions, and rural areas. Curb is distributed to municipal offic...

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