Banff is a resort town and one of the most popular tourist destinations located within Banff National park in Alberta, Canada. It is the first municipality to be incorporated in the oldest national park in Canada.

Situated amidst nature, a mountainous landscape and hot springs, it is famous for many outdoor sports activities such as hiking, skiing, biking, etc. Banff features a diverse range of architectural styles such as historic structures built in wood and stone to use of lightweight metal to make cantilevers and ribbon windows.

1. Banff Park Museum

Built in 1895, boasting of the rustic style of architecture, Banff Park Museum is a national historic site of Canada that houses about 5000 vintage specimens of plants, minerals and animals that are associated with the Banff National park. It is an important building to understand the evolution of wildlife and the natural history of Western Canada. The structure boasts of large windows and a cantilever truss system which allows for natural light to enter the museum from the second floor. Recently, exterior renovations were done to this historic landmark to restore the original beauty of ornamentation and the rustic wood finish.

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2. Banff Town Hall

Banff Town Hall is a landmark building for the community that stands in between the local heritage, nature, culture and the modernity and sustainability in Banff. The project, built in collaboration with Sturgess architecture and MANASC ISAAC is the first project in Alberta to receive C -2000 green building rating. The project relooks at the traditional building typologies of Banff with a strong wooden influence. The 1500 m square structure has a two-storey office building and underground parking with provision for public spaces for communal activities; defining the edges between the inside and the outside.

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3. Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, founded in 1978 is an educational institute that offers fine art and performance courses. The Centre also houses the Walter Phillips Gallery and an art museum within the campus. It has a number of ongoing events and film festivals. The concrete building has breathtaking views and upscale interiors with wood-lined corridors. The building design blends with the exterior forested landscape, almost bringing the nature inside the building. The design itself along with its functions celebrates art and culture in Banff.

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4. Banff Centre Music and Sound building

The structure has a number of performance halls and rehearsal studios for musicians in Banff. The building also houses Rolston Recital hall which can seat up to 200 people with views of the Rundle mountain. The design gave great importance to reduce the impact of the building on the landscape around in terms of acoustics and the built mass. Thus the building was built in an existing parking lot with foyers and terraces that provide views to the natural landscape of mountains.

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5. Banff International Research Station

Established in 2003, the research station houses about 2000 international researchers per year to undertake research on mathematical discovery and innovation. The building has residential spaces, lounging areas, a small library, meeting rooms and a number of lecture rooms. The building can be divided into two main parts i.e Corbett Hall and TransCanada Pipelines Pavilion and is located inside the Banff Centre. The design aimed to create a space that allows researchers and scientists to break away from the daily, mundane activities in fast-paced cities and focus on their research, nestled in the landscape.

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6. Elkhorn Lodge

The lodging was originally a one-storey wooden log structure with a fireplace and side gable roof that served as a cabin for the landscape painter Belmore Browne. It was renovated into a tourist inn with various additions and developments in 1945. The current building retains the original structure and the fireplace as well. It has beautiful, framed views of the mountains with rustic interiors, making it a popular tourist resort.

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7. Fairmont Banff Springs

Established in 1888, the historic hotel was opened by Canadian Pacific Railways and over the years it has experienced a number of additions and developments. In 1926, the original structure was destroyed in a fire but was later replaced and designed by architect Walter S. Painter and was declared as a national historic site. The original wooden structure has been replaced by a steel frame structure that is cladded with Rundle limestone. The structure borrows elements from a number of architectural styles such as  Scottish baronial architecture, French gothic architecture, Châteauesque style used in railway hotels, and The Arts and Crafts movement

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8. Banff – Mineral Springs Hospital

The original building of the Mineral Springs hospital was established in 1911. The site over the years has seen the construction of various buildings with an amalgamation of diverse architectural styles. It is one of the most prominent, operating hospitals today in the town of Banff. The new addition to the old hospital building was made in 1956, using the materials steel and concrete.

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9. Banff Community High School

A LEED-certified building, the 3780-meter square school has been built in various phases over the years. In 2005, ‘Modernization’ of the school was undertaken by GEC architects to make the interiors of the school more contemporary whilst retaining the historic exterior façade of the structure. Computer labs, offices, art rooms, gymnasium and meeting halls for the students were added to the old building. The project also laid great emphasis on energy efficiency and is today an appropriate example of a mid-century modernist structure.

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10. King Edward Hotel

Built in 1904, King Edward Hotel is the second oldest hotel in Banff after the Banff Springs hotel. It currently houses 21 rooms built in a modernist architecture style with contemporary amenities. The hotel was built by Norman Luxton who was a pioneer in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. He later also established the major landmarks of Banff; Lux Theatre and the Buffalo Nations Museum.

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11. Sunshine Mountain Lodge

Situated amongst the peaks of Banff National Park, Sunshine Mountain Lodge is a popular boutique hotel. One of the major ski resorts in Western Canada, the site was first used as a camping site and is currently known for its ski resorts. Situated at an altitude of 2200 meters the lodging provides a number of unique facilities such as ski-in, ski-out and a large hot tub as well. It is surrounded by acres of skiable terrain and snow capped slopes all throughout the year providing picturesque views.

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12. Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum

Named after its founder Norman Luxton in 1953, the museum displays authentic artefacts that show the First Nation’s history, culture and lifestyle in North America. The museum holds a number of interactive exhibits and traveling exhibitions. Built using wooden logs, the museum also sensitizes people on the importance of buffalos to the indigenous people along with commemorating the return of the buffalo to Banff National park.

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13. Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station

Situated atop Sulphur mountain in Banff National Park, Cave and Basin National Historic site is one of the nine sites constructed by Canada to study cosmic rays. The laboratory was built to commemorate Canada’s participation in the International Geophysical Year, from 1957 to 1958, and was dismantled in 1981 when the station ceased its operations. It was later designated as a national historic site with a plaque as the landmark of the station. Located at 2383 meters altitude, it provides views to the surrounding mountains and valleys.

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14. Cave and Basin National Historic site

The historic site which houses natural cave formations was found in 1883 when three railroad workers stumbled upon it. It is located in close vicinity with natural thermal springs that are heated up geothermally. It is a popular tourist attraction as it is spacious enough to allow people to enter the hot springs. Many of the early structures surrounding the site were built by detainees that were held at a World War 1 Ukrainian Canadian internment camp located nearby. The site has an artificial tunnel made to access the hot springs along with stone bathhouses and various permanent exhibits. The bathhouses were designed by architect Walter S. Painter in 1914.

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15. Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies

Opened in 1968, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies is the fourth largest cultural history museum in Alberta. It preserves and collects exhibits that are related to the cultural history of the Canadian Rocky Mountains and also provides materials for research and education purposes. The 4-acre site has a number of art galleries, libraries, museum shops and archives along with a few historic log homes that represent the lifestyle of a few of the earliest pioneers of Banff. Along with a diverse collection of exhibits on art, architecture, history, culture; the museum hosts a number of events with the aim of making these archives available for all and generating more awareness about Banff’s heritage. Situated at the backdrop of mountains it also provides panoramic views. 

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Rajshri Jain
Author

Rajshri Jain is a final year architecture student and you will usually find her devouring books and poetry in cafes over warm cups of coffees and conversations. She is always wondering and wandering about spaces, places and cities and its relation with memories, cultures, history and people.

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