Building Magazine


Calgary’s New Central Library design aims ‘To Inspire All’

Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) has officially unveiling of the final architectural design for the New Central Library along with details about the library’s public art program.

“The New Central Library embodies everything we’ve endeavoured to accomplish in our redevelopment of East Village,” says Lyle Edwards, Chairman, Calgary Municipal Land Corporation. “Our constant goal has been to connect Calgarians and to create a gathering place where guests will find stimulation, inspiration, entertainment and recreation. That’s precisely what we’re delivering through both the New Central Library and the revitalized neighbourhood of East Village as a whole.”

“The New Central Library has been a long time coming, and moving forward with this project was a key part of my platform when I was first elected,” says Mayor Naheed Nenshi. “When City Council created the Community Investment Fund in 2011, we also created a mechanism to finalize the funding of a New Central Library that will serve the needs of a growing population now and into the future. I’m immensely proud of what we’ve achieved together—The City of Calgary, CMLC, Calgary Public Library, and all citizens. The New Central Library will be a new icon for Calgarians and a jewel of public space and opportunity for all.”

“Since embarking on this project, one of the things we’ve kept reminding ourselves is that we don’t just want to build the best library in the world.  We want to build the library that’s best for Calgary.” Craig Dykers of Snøhetta, part of the design consultant team. “At this moment in time, with the city conditions that surround us, with the different needs of all of you in the community, we continue to ask ourselves, how we are going to make the right library?”

The final design also reflects important insights and ideas that the project team – City of Calgary, Calgary Public Library (CPL) and CMLC – gleaned from two years of extensive public engagement, which culminated on September 4, 2014, in a public Open House discussion.

“Calgarians told us they wanted a library with a wide range of gathering places, and the library’s 3rd Street Plaza is a great example of innovative public space. The entire concept for the building was shaped by the LRT tracks that bisect the library site in a north to south arc. The unique and organic curvature of the building and the soft terraces and ramps outside are sophisticated responses to the presence of the tracks,” says Architect Rob Adamson of DIALOG. “The exterior and street life surrounding the library is just as much a part of the building as the interior. The outdoor plaza welcomes visitors from East Village and beyond and invites them into the building to explore, relax, reflect and connect.”

Another important dimension of the New Central Library, geared toward making its spaces as inviting and inspiring as possible, is the public art program being shepherded by CMLC. “One per cent of the project budget has been earmarked for two public art initiatives,” says Michael Brown, president and CEO, CMLC. “The first involves the temporary fencing around the library construction site. To surprise, delight and inspire visitors even before the new library opens its doors, CMLC will commission local artists to create installations to be mounted on fencing at the construction site. The other involves the creation of permanent public art to beautify, enliven and activate various spaces within the new library complex. In July, CMLC initiated an open Request for Qualifications (RFQ) from artists and artist teams interested in creating permanent public art installations within the new library complex. The RFQ closed on September 15 and our selection committee is now wading through the 217 responses we received.”

Along with a sophisticated design and engaging public art program, the New Central Library is providing a catalyst for the CPL to reassert its relevance and appeal as it prepares for its next century of operations. “We’re undertaking a system-wide rebranding to bring forward a new generation of ideas that will help to articulate our evolving value and services, inspire our staff and attract new members,” says CPL Board Chair Janet Hutchinson. “Following a request for proposals that attracted responses from some of the best branding firms in the nation, we have chosen Edelman to help modernize our story and keep it relevant for all Calgarians.”

Construction of the New Central Library is already underway with the LRT encapsulation program. Soon the first installation of hoarding art will envelop the site.

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