The Blue Hula Hoop: An Interpretation

Living or visiting Calgary, we have all seen the giant blue ring light post on 96th Ave NW visible from Deerfoot Trail. You may have seen it on your commute or on the way to the airport. This is a monument installed by the City of Calgary in 2013 called “Travelling Light”. It caused a bit of a stir amongst Calgarians who couldn’t quite figure out why nearly half a million dollars was spent for this bold and innovative piece of public art. Like any worthy gesture, it is up for interpretation. Here is mine…

Imagine that this is a nod to motion and a comment on suburban life and the transportation system in Calgary.

From a very nostalgic perspective, it evokes memories of when I was a kid running around my neighbourhood streets in Montreal. I remember tossing a hula hoop, giving it a backspin and having the hoop roll back to me. And so the hoops would roll along on their own through the streets. The hoop was probably blue and might have been nabbed from a girl using it as a skipping rope. Fond memories.

But what I feel gives this piece true value, is the aspect of social relevance that it embodies.

Because Calgary wanted a public sculpture located close to the airport at the juncture of two main roads where pedestrian interaction is all but impossible, the artists have made a comment on what is important to Calgarians… their car, their roads, their commute, travel, speed, their suburban lifestyle… nobody said that art had to be endearing but rather just a reflection of observable conditions.

So basically what I see in my minds’ eye is the blue circle as a hula hoop in motion rolling back from the homes towards the airport on that road, and as it is doing so, it grabs a lamp post so the lamp post is going up the hoop and is at the top at that point in time.  It speaks to movement, to transportation, to memories of the hoop on the road that connects neighborhoods to cities.

Finally, don’t ask me why, but the City of Calgary loves to paint the steel on their infrastructure “blue” or some other primary colour. Drives me crazy! I have no idea why, but it appears that these European artists have made this observation and have cheekily chosen to paint their public circle / infrastructure “hula hoop blue”.

This is what it evokes to me, so I think it is both smart and relevant. The toy, the venue and what it connects relates to the suburban city that is Calgary, to memories of play, to movement and to roads as this is the surroundings. Kind of makes me want to toss a hula hoop…

Richard Davignon, Principal, Architect

Davignon Martin Architecture + Interior Design

Categories: art, calgary, design, Opinion

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