Chad Huculak: Edmonton’s top CN tower is still a major to the east

The CN Tower in Edmonton is a functional office tower; Toronto’s CN Tower is a superficial stick in the mud meant to let people know that the north shore of Lake Ontario belongs to Canada, not New York State

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Ask most Canadians where the CN Tower is and they’ll say Toronto. Ask Edmontonians and they’re just as likely to tell you it’s on 104 Avenue next to the museum.

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There are very few similarities between Toronto and Edmonton other than that they are both great Canadian cities and each has a legendary and perpetually disappointing NHL team. Both cities, however, have their own CN Tower landmark. Yet only one has the real claim to fame.

Edmontonians have a strained relationship with their CN Tower. It is over five decades old, located on the northern edge of downtown, jutting into an area of ​​low rise buildings such as Rogers Place, where the Oilers play, and the Royal Alberta Museum, while just to the south are the sparkling and modern jumble of skyscrapers that make up the heart of the city.

Edmonton is a largely unassuming city: built around a tranquil river valley, devoid of well-known landmarks or structures other than the West Edmonton Mall; and the perennial underdog of its rival city to the south, Calgary, which has its own recognizable landmark downtown, the Calgary Tower. Overall, residents see the CN Tower in Edmonton as another utilitarian building.

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Dan Rose is Edmonton’s unofficial ambassador for its hidden architectural wonders. He’s the type of expert who can showcase the roughly hewn delights of the Dover Hotel, a nearly century-old dive bar opposite the railway tracks, while also managing a separate March Madness-style stand for determine what Edmonton’s most cherished history is. landmark.

Rose jumped at the chance to champion Edmonton’s CN Tower as a building worth appreciating. “Toronto’s CN Tower is bigger, but I would definitely say (Edmonton’s) is absolutely better in that it’s a marvel of modernist architecture, but it’s also a functional building,” says- he.

Like any historically significant building, if you were to open Edmonton’s CN Tower, you could dissect its history as if you were reading the rings of a tree.

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When it was first announced by the Canadian National Railway Company in 1963, Edmonton had already emerged from its sleepy, quiet post-World War II era into an era marked by dynamism. and growth. The 111-metre, 26-story building, completed in 1966, was the pinnacle of the city’s prosperity, dominating the skyline at that time in what Rose describes as a ‘subtle middle finger’ for Eastern big cats .

Overlooking the CN rail yard, the CN Tower took the place of the CN station built in 1905, while remaining connected to the city’s railway hub by having its basement housing a railway station until the end of the 1990s. The last time an Edmontonian near the CN Tower probably said “this city isn’t big enough for both of us” was in 1998, when CN moved its passenger train service off downtown.

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“I think it really captures the identity of Edmonton, both with a foot in the past in that it was tied to the kind of railroad roots of our city, but also simultaneously having a foot squarely in the present in terms of this absolutely transformational period of Edmonton’s growth,” says Rose. “The Triumph of the Prairie Outback.”

Edmonton’s CN Tower was designed by Abugov & Sunderland and became the tallest building east of Ontario when it was completed. Its unique design, the culmination of its concave and convex sides, was a dominant trend in modernist architecture at this time.

The building’s pre-engineered fins run vertically, with black glazed windows in between, drawing eyes skyward to the box crowning the tower, which is adorned with the iconic CN logo on all four sides. Most Edmontonians, when asked to describe the CN Tower, would likely recall seeing the flowing serpent of red light tracing the outlines of the letters C and N. It is Edmonton’s de facto beacon, says Rose.

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It didn’t take long for Toronto to monopolize the spotlight at Edmonton’s CN Tower with the opening of its own structure, also known as the CN Tower, in 1976. Canadian National built the CN Tower in Toronto on an old yard, but that’s where the similarities between the two towers end.

Toronto’s CN Tower is gigantic: 555.3 meters high, the equivalent of 147 stories, which is tall enough to suit Big Smoke’s ego. Its main function is that of a communication tower, as well as a tourist attraction, with an observation deck and a revolving restaurant. Interestingly, when Canadian National Railways sold the tower in the 90s, the CN logo was removed and the tower was renamed Canadian National Tower. But it is still known as the CN Tower.

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“A lot of people jokingly call Toronto’s CN Tower the CV Tower because it’s essentially and functionally useless, aside from being a glorified radio antenna,” Rose says, adding that it’s a great feat of engineering, but not a feat. architecture by all sections.

The CN Tower in Toronto feels larger than life, fitting in with the spirit of Toronto’s “center of the universe”. It not only dominates the Toronto skyline, it has come to symbolize Canada’s image on the world stage. Drake immortalized his city’s CN Tower in pop culture by having an image of him sitting on it on the cover of his album, “Views.”

Recently, the tower could be seen in the background in scenes from the animated film “Turning Red”. In short, the CN Tower in Toronto is as much an icon of Canada as the Maple Leaf, the Rockies and the RCMP, but it’s the CN Tower in Edmonton that does the work.

The CN Tower in Edmonton is a functional office tower; Toronto’s CN Tower is what Rose describes as an “obelisk…a shallow stick in the mud” meant to let people know that the north shore of Lake Ontario belongs to Canada, not New York State.

There are no vast swaths of lush parkland near Edmonton’s CN Tower to picnic in, no nearby lakeside restaurants to sip a margarita. The downtown parcel on which Edmonton’s CN Tower sits is surrounded by dusty parking lots filled with vehicles driven by Edmontonians who roll up their sleeves daily, ready to get things done.

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