Created by artist Mario Armengol, The Family of Man group of statues have long been a downtown Calgary landmark. In this then and now report we compare how they looked way back in 1969 and again today. While a lot has changed in those years, the works are now surrounded by huge skyscrapers for example, some parts of the scene have remained remarkably static.
Built for Expo ’67 in Montreal, the statues were put on display at the British Pavilion for that summer. After the event closed, the 6.5m aluminium figures were purchased by a Calgarian who then donated them to the city. They were placed at this spot in 1968 and have stood guard here ever since.
In the first image, kindly supplied by noted railways photographer Weston Langford, we see the statues in the summer of 1969. In the following image, taken by us in November 2013, we attempt to duplicate Weston’s shot – and we do pretty good at it.
As you can see a lot has changed in the thirty plus years between the time the photos were taken and in particular that large tower in back stands out. It’s obviously a relatively new addition. Some things have remained the same though…surprisingly…that red brick building in the back left for example. Somehow it has survived the various building booms that have taken place in the downtown core over the years. At various times in the city’s history huge numbers of old structures like it were unmercifully flatted to make way for more skyscrapers. That this little building stands in 2013 is nothing short of a miracle.
These sculptures are located in a small park on the grounds of the Calgary Board of Education. In fact the statues have been used in that organization’s logo for some time even though they are no longer completely based out of the building in which the figures stand. They have a new main location on the opposite side of downtown.
In the time I spent photographing these works, during the lunch rush no less, very few people on the busy street paid them any mind. They are listed as a “major” tourist attraction on many websites, popular with both locals and out-of-towners according to the write-ups. In the snow, few footprints around the sculptures hinted they are not as big a drawn as suggested. It’s like they are forgotten and it was only me who kept them company that whole time.
Weston’s image did not include all the statues that together comprise the complete works. In the third picture, I have stepped back to include all them in the frame, giving one a good view of the overall area. As can be seen, they are completely overshadowed by tall buildings. The back ground that was formerly open is now cluttered and the figures appear almost insignificant in spite of their large size.
In the artist’s bio the work is refereed to as the “Brotherhood of Man”, or “Brotherhood of Mankind” however today it’s seem that the name “Family of Man” is used more often instead. I am not sure why the change.
A lot of time can be spent discussing the possible meaning of the works. I’d rather keep it simple and sweet and to me the extended hands suggest a theme of caring and goodwill.
Mario Armengol who was commissioned to make these works was a well known Spanish artist (painter and sculptor, among other things) and was active from the 1920s on. He passed in the mid 1990s.
Weston Langford is a noted railway photographer who’s been at it since the 1950s. He has graciously allowed us use his image which is under copyright. In the past we’ve used other images he’s taken and to see the reports they are used in, click the links below…
Biggest piggy bank in the world.
Loading coal in Coleman.
If you’d like to know more about what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: November, 2013.
Location: Calgary, AB.