For the past five months, 36-year-old Calgarian Luke Materi has been working on Winterfell, an unique art project consisting of a castle and village made of rock structures along the banks of the Elbow River in Bragg Creek.
“It’s called ‘Winterfell’ because it is Game of Thrones inspired,” Materi explained.
“I wanted to get out of the city. It was getting to the point where it was very frustrating being in a city with all of the negative energy, everyone pretty much looking out for themselves – it is a very selfish place.”
After watching a video a friend had posted on Facebook about “rock-balancing,” Materi said he was inspired to create something out of the city, and originally had no intention of the project becoming “art” when he started building in early July.
“I started the project with the intention of just coming out here and being alone. Then I started thinking, you know it would be nice if I could build something big (and) that is why I wanted to find some place secluded and away from people,” Materi explained.
It was not until after all the feedback from Creekers and visitors about the project when Materi decided to make it an official art project and contact Banff-Cochrane MLA Cam Westhead asking approval. That, and some recent vandalism from one individual Materi did not name.
“The reason I decided to contact the MLA was because of that one person (vandalizing) and the fact that I’ve spent close to 600 hours on the project and I plan on spending a lot more – so I want to make sure it is protected,” Materi explained.
“The only reason I got this far is literally hundreds of people coming up and saying ‘This is a great project. We think it is awesome. You should continue.’”
At press time, Materi had not heard back from Westhead.
Currently the project stretches across one of the banks along the Elbow River, the structures made from natural building materials Materi found in the area. The artist said he would love to expand the project 500-600 feet across the bank.
“If it wasn’t for the flood the project wouldn’t be possible,” Materi explained.
“It is kind of those things where nature directs where the project is going to go.”
Materi said Winterfell once had approximately 20 towers that were over 5 feet tall, with the tallest tower measuring about 7 feet, but due to wind (and vandalism) some of the towers did not last.
“The goal is to make a castle. I want to make it into a temporary landmark,” Materi said.
“There is a lot of civil unrest and injustice in the world. I was just really frustrated and angry with everything that is happening in the world and very few people seem to be awake to what is happening so I wanted to get out there and do something in the community to help inspire people and share love instead of fear and hate.”
Materi recently took a layoff from work, which gives him more time to work on the project. And it is also coming up on the artist’s two-year sobriety anniversary in January.
“I loved the fast-paced lifestyle, it’s why I wanted to move to the city in the first place. But once you stop drinking and you start waking up and seeing what things really are you want to get out of that lifestyle and you don’t want the fast-paced lifestyle and you don’t want the negativity,” Materi explained.
“It is not really good money-wise, things are stressful. But it had also given me the opportunity to come out here and make it this big in such a short period of time.”
Materi said he does not have a set end date for the project but mentioned that he would love to work on the project full time.
“That is what this project is – it shows what one individual can accomplish if they are determined and motivated and have the grit to do something like this. It is about sacrificing yourself to give to others,” Materi said.
One of the artist’s favourite quotes is “Creativity is the greatest rebellion in existence,” as said by Indian guru Osho.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’ve been in the trades for 10 years so it will be there when I am done,” Materi explained.
“It’ll last as long as I put energy into it and as long as I am out here maintaining it.”
Winterfell can be seen along the Elbow River in Bragg Creek, across from White Ave. W. For more information go to Luke Materi’s Facebook page at L. C. Materi Rock Creations.