Calgary Central Library
An iconic library that reconnects a city and its people

2013–2018

Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Interior Architecture

Introduction

The new Calgary Central Library, designed in collaboration with DIALOG, positions an iconic civic building and landscape atop what was once a divided and inaccessible site. The Library spans a site where a fully functional Light Rail Transit Line transitions from above to below ground on a curved half-moon path, dividing Downtown and East Village. With the new Library in place, residents and visitors from either neighborhood can come together. Gently terraced slopes rise to the heart of the building, allowing people coming from every direction to interact with the library. Doubling as a portal and a bridge, the entry plaza heals the previously-split seam between the two neighborhoods and re-establishes visual and pedestrian connections across the site.

Technical details

Typologies
Library, Public Building, Public Space, Signage & Wayfinding
Status
Completed
Location
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Client

Calgary Municipal Land Corporation

Collaborators

DIALOG

Size
240.000 sqft
Scope
Design Architect, Design Landscape Architect, Interior Architect

The crystalline geometry of the façade is carved away to reveal an expansive wood archway that embraces visitors as they approach. Framing the entrance of the building, the form references the Chinook cloud arches common to the region. The dynamic, triple-glazed facade is composed of a modular, hexagonal pattern that expresses the library's aims to provide a space that invites in all visitors. Aggregated variations on the hexagon form scatter across the building's curved surface in alternating panels of fritted glass and occasional iridescent aluminum. From these shapes emerge familiar forms: parts of the pattern might resemble an open book, snowflake-like linework, or interlocking houses, anchoring the ideas of the collective and community.

Calgary Public Library is one of the most actively used library systems in North America, where more than half of its residents are active cardholders, and accordingly, the new main branch was created for and inspired by its diverse inhabitants.

Organized on a spectrum of ‘Fun’ to ‘Serious,’ the library program locates the livelier public activities on the lower floors, gradually transitioning to quieter study areas on the upper levels as one spirals upwards. At the street level, a series of multi-purpose rooms line the perimeter of the building, enhancing the connectivity between inside and outside. Throughout the four floors, a variety of spaces provide for digital, analog, group, and individual interactions. Arriving at the northernmost point of the library, one finds oneself at the Living Room, overlooking the train line and the meeting point of the two neighborhoods.

At the uppermost level of the library is the Great Reading Room, conceived as a jewel box tucked within the library, which provides a space for focused study and inspiration. Readers enter through a transitional space with softened light and acoustics. Within, vertical wood slats line the space to provide both privacy and visibility, defining an interior space without using solid walls.

With gratitude, mutual respect, and reciprocity, we acknowledge the ancestral home, culture, and oral teachings of the Treaty 7 signatories which includes the Siksika Nation, Piikani Nation, Kainai Nation, the Îethka Stoney Nakoda Nation, consisting of the Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Good Stoney Bands, and the people of the Tsuut’ina Nation. We also recognize the Métis people of Alberta Region 3 who call Treaty 7 their home.

At Calgary Public Library we celebrate stories: the stories of the community and the land that we live on. We serve the community on Wîcîspa, Guts’ists, and Moh'kinstsis, which describes the gathering place where the Bow and Elbow rivers meet. We respect all people who share, celebrate, and care for the Treaty 7 territory of southern Alberta and we honour the original caretakers of the land who remind us of the ongoing histories that precede us. We recognize our shared responsibilities going forward to help bring everyone together on this journey of Truth and Reconciliation.