THE MAKING OF A LIBRARY, THE SHAPING OF A CITY
Since time immemorial, libraries have played a critical role in cities and communities. Libraries are places that connect people, knowledge and society. The New Central Library is uniquely positioned—both literally and figuratively—to connect Calgarians.
“Libraries are some of the few lasting spaces available to the public,” says Simon Rainsbury of Colliers. “This building shows that the city is proud and wants to invest in interesting architecture and creative public spaces.” Brock Schroeder of Entuitive agrees. “Any time you think about a great city or a city that’s a destination, you think about architecture. Architecture can define a city, and it’s important to bring people into the city.” Rob Adamson, Principal and Architect at DIALOG (the Calgary firm that collaborated with award-winning firm Snøhetta on the design of the library) thinks that the NCL is the most important civic building built in Calgary in the last 25 years. “It might also be the most important civic building for the next 25 years,” he adds. The building is also a portal from the vibrant residential neighbourhood of East Village to all the action of the downtown central core. The design of the building, Adamson says, is fully intended to be that bridge between those two parts of the city. Calgarians will be able to walk through the building any time of the day, any time of the year to go from one part of the city to the other.
“The building is designed in such a way that it is not only for people to come to use the library or the programs of the library,” says Adamson. There’s an animated street level with public outdoor space and coffee shops, and there’s the public forum where the main theatre features a big glass wall that opens to the streets. “It’s quite transparent so you can see what’s going on inside,” says Adamson.
Some think that the New Central Library will do for Calgary what the Guggenheim Museum did for Bilbao. Designed by architect Frank Gehry, the Guggenheim put the sleepy Spanish city on the map for tourists and architecture lovers around the globe. “I went to Bilbao to see Gehry’s building—it has the wow factor and I think the New Central Library has it, too,” says Paul Polson, Senior Vice President Business Development & Community Engagement at Stuart Olson, the company that managed the NCL’s construction. Pick up a past issue of Travel Alberta magazine and if you open it to the Calgary page, the picture you’ll see is probably the Saddledome or the Calgary Tower. “Soon, it’s going to be the library building,” says Polson. “People will see it in a magazine and go, ‘Oh that’s Calgary’. People are going to want to come see it and touch it and be up against it. It’s just one of those buildings.”
“The library is our chance to really make a difference to the architectural landscape of the city,” says Adamson. “It really shaped my perspective of why libraries are spaces where people come together to share ideas,” adds Schroeder. Cities are about that. And the NCL in particular encapsulates that idea into one space. “This building has been a huge part of my life,” says Polson. “The NCL will be a place I’ll take visiting friends or families. It’s that kind of place.”