Calgary Central Library
An iconic library that reconnects a city and its people
The new Calgary Central Libray, 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 both either neighborhood can come together. Gently terraced slopes rise up to the heart of the building, allowing for people arriving 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.
Calgary Municipal Land Corporation
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.
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