Finalist – Italian Monument Competition, 2006

Italian Monument Competition: Statement  

Unfortunately, the competition was cancelled before the final judging. You can view the model here


New places; new language; new customs; a new way of life – this is what faced not only the Italians but all other peoples as they immigrated to our nation.

Fitting in.  For every change we make, something is gained and something is lost.  How do we maintain our identity while being a part of the social fabric of this new land?  It is a delicate balance-one that the Italians have, over the course of years, managed to maintain.

The monument is an acknowledgement of the contributions Italians have made to Alberta.  It is a monument to their spirit – a spirit that has allowed them to embrace a new land and way of life.  As such, it can also be considered, in part, a tribute to their ability to maintain pride in their past (often under adverse conditions) and the effort to keep their cultural heritage intact.

Just as culture operates on multiple and complex levels, so too does our proposal for the monument.

The Assembled Aggregate

The assembled aggregate calls to mind the large glacial erratics one would find in the Rockies of Alberta. The qualities and textures of the pieces, while giving the monument a sense of familiarity, also raises the questions: What is it? What is it doing here?

This is a question that most, if not all, early immigrants asked themselves.  What are we doing here?  For many, Canada was a refuge; an opportunity; and a place to create a new life.  In short, a place to build, work, grow and contribute.

The assembled aggregate is hard.  This signifies both the duro (lit. hard; tough; strong) nature Italians needed to survive and flourish in this new land.  It also represents the hardships they would have to endure.

An observer will notice that there are two textures to the assembled aggregate.

  • The first texture is smooth and washed. It is raw aggregate.  It has not been worked.
  • The second texture show signs of being worked. This signifies two things:
    1. It shows the beginnings of the process of change.  The task is difficult.  Stone must be worked slowly.  One must understand and explore the complexities of the material.  This is also true when trying to find your place in any group or society.  How do we work the stone further (develop your life) without losing or destroying the underlying base or what we have already accomplished? How do we work and transform from new immigrant and outsider to that of a productive member of the Canadian community? Character, like stone, is also a building material.  You can make beautiful things with it. You can use your skills and character to make a place so much more than what it was when you first arrived.
    2. On a more literal level the working of the rock surface also signifies the job of coal mining – an occupation many early immigrants took as a means to raise a family and help provide for a better life for the generations to come.

The Base

The base surrounding the monument is composed of 3 different pavers each displaying one of three subtle colors within them.

  • Black – recalls the early mining work.
  • Blue – recalls both the ocean Italians crossed to arrive here.  It also signifies the blue sky of Alberta.
  • Yellow – recalls the wheat fields of the prairies. 

The colors are placed randomly to reflect the various patterns and times of Italian immigration (e.g., prior to and after World War I; in the late 1940s, and so on).

The grass is allowed to grow between the pavers.  This symbolizes the integration of Italians with the rest of Canadian society.

The Aedicule & Garden 

At the front of the monument is an Aedicule.  A finished piece, constructed from stone, the Aedicule signifies the contributions that Italians have made and continue to make to the building (both literally and figuratively) of Canada.  Created from raw bedrock, these architectural orders of civilization reach back into the rich cultural past of the Italian people.

While some may construe the aedicule as a Mannerist piece, the elements are modified.  Although we may try to maintain our language, culture, history, religious and social beliefs, we often have to modify how we preserve these things.  This ‘compromise’ (of sorts) is necessary in order to maintain the balance between the ‘old country’ and the ‘new country’.

The Aedicule faces the reflecting pool of the legislature.  This, combined with the visual screen of plantings, allows one to sit on the bench in the facade and reflect both on the past contributions of Italians to Alberta as well as those yet to come.

Besides the reflection of the pool, the Aedicule itself mirrors elements of the legislature building – a seat of government.  The integration of monument and building truly demonstrates that the Italian people are part of Canada.


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