Calgary, a town in Canada, has an institutional structure that is a potent metaphor for its typology. Calgary’s new central library paves its way out of the stereotypical one while stuffing the minimal functional voids of the city. The library does it all by unifying neighborhoods; providing community spaces for relaxing, socializing, and absorbing knowledge; for all age groups; from all directions. The new Central Library at Calgary is a magnet that draws the rapidly developing city’s population effortlessly.

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Calgary’s New Central Library_©Snøhetta

Calgary’s Central Library is located on 3rd Street SE, an alley divaricating neighborhood viz The Downtown and the East Village. The library elongates in the North-South direction facilitating approachability from both the 3rd Street SE in the West and 8th Avenue in the East and thus a seam for two localities. On the West lies the Calgary Municipal Corporation Building and City Hall Station connected to the light rail transit CTrain line passing through the site on the North.

Calgary’s new Central Library was conceived in replacement of the older one functioning since 1964. The association of the American-Norwegian Architect Snøhetta and Toronto-based local firm DIALOG exhibited their perseverance to upend the language of classical Library. The team got victorious in a competition launched by the Calgary Municipal Corporation in the year 2011. The site work commenced in 2013 and the Calgary’s new Central Library was comprehensively geared up to welcome its first ever bunch of guests on November 1st, 2018.

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Site Plan_©Snøhetta

The four-storied 240,000 Sq.ft. the building stands 85 feet tall. The stairway on the eastern and western sides elevates the structure to zero level to accommodate the light rail transit line passing underneath. The zero-level floor houses the noisiest and busiest activities viz performance halls, green rooms, community lobby, multipurpose rooms, communication rooms, loading areas, etc. 

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Level Zero Floor  Plan_©Snøhetta

The mezzanine floor consists of a cafeteria, children-oriented elementary learning and reading areas, an atrium reading lounge, themed reading collection, library operation, training areas, etc. The access to the mezzanine floor rises from the central grand atrium lit with a magnificent skylight.

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Mezzanine Level Floor  Plan_©Snøhetta

At level one the wooden-clad archway provides a detour for persons on the street; East and West of the building, consequentially linking Downtown and Eastern Village. 

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Level One Floor  Plan_ ©Snøhetta

At level two whole site unifies into a single floor comprising of a toddlers’ nook along with an early learning center, book sorting room, meeting and multipurpose rooms, special service areas and library operations room, staff lounge, etc. 

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Level Two Floor  Plan_ ©Snøhetta

Level three floor facilitates more technology-driven activities like Idea Lab, Digital Learning Lab, Audio Visual Production studios, Technology Lab, Study lab, open manuscripts collection, and some staff rooms and operational areas. 

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Level Three Floor  Plan_ ©Snøhetta

The quietest places lie on the topmost floor. Facilities for elderly people, story labs, reading room, craft artist studio, Interfaith room, etc. The spaces overlooking the city in different directions are located on the subsequent floor to maintain transparency among interiors and exteriors.

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Level Four Floor  Plan_©Snøhetta

The visual congruence is viable by the use of triple-glazed fritted glass on the façade held by an interwoven progressive hexagonal aluminum framework. The Insulated Glass Unit was manufactured using Solarban 60 and Solarban 72 both Low E-value glass variants by Vitro, enhancing the climatic insulation and thus optimizing the electrical loads of the building. The functional curtain wall fluctuates from being opaque white to transparent along the entire half-moon-shaped façade inducing playfulness of chiaroscuro in the proximity. 

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Visual transparency through interiors and exteriors_©Snøhetta

The new central library also exhibits the harmonious use of wooden panels as wall and ceiling coverings. Sourced from nearby British Columbia, planks of western red cedar line up the double-curved shell ranking it among one of the largest freeform timber shells in the world. Extensive use of timber persists in interiors as well to enable acoustical insulation as inevitable in the specific building typology.

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Use of wood in the central atrium_©Snøhetta

The organic form of the building encompassing the grand archway resembles Chinook clouds- an atmospheric phenomenon in the region. The stepped terraces resembling Calgary’s mountains and prairies are frequently adapted as amphitheaters. Calgary’s new central library appears identical from all directions and is often said to have either front elevation throughout the periphery or no front elevation. Employing organic forms and natural materials for this huge scaled building has facilitated the reduction of conceivable brutal impact on its users. Contrastingly, the massive RCC columns demonstrate the library’s robustness and ‘ability to handle all’ characters. Steel is also adopted for structural members.

The new central library is not just a go-to-read place, but also a place to tranquilize. True to its intent, this public building does not discriminate among its users but rather embraces them equally facilitating the gaining and sharing of knowledge.

South-West View_ ©iStock

 

 

Author

"Yamini has an innate fanaticism toward sustainable creations with low embodied energy and carbon footprint. She affirms an architects’ apical felicitation lies in their ability to create such sustainable entities that facilitate people to be closer to their origin and mother nature."

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