Snøhetta’s Calgary Central Library offers readers a master-class on urban functionality & architectural design

Photos. Angus MacKenzie Photography

Although finished in 2018 the Snøhetta designed (local firm DIALOG) Calgary Central Library has unfortunately failed to make it into elemente’s pages until now. Considered by many to be one of the premiere architectural designs in the country, this $245 million CAD, 240,000 sq.ft that sits 60% larger than its predecessor is an architectural masterstroke. Since its opening the Marquise/ dory-boat influenced space the new library has seen more than 2 million plus visitors through its doors.

Looking down onto the children’s play area, Calgary Central Library

Offering up expansive naturally lit spaces, across 4 unique floor plans, visitors interact with digital or analog experiences, in groups or as individuals.

The library’s unique exterior treatment according to Snøhetta, “…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.”

Wood slats line the perimeter of the open atrium, its uniform corduroy pattern evoking a sense of warmth, rhythm and movement

The building is sited within a complex urban condition, where a fully functional Light Rail Transit Line crosses the site from above to below ground on a curved half-moon path, dividing Downtown and East Village. In response, the design lifts the main entry over the encapsulated train line. 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.”

Wooden slatted design elements provide ambient light into key reading areas, DIALOG

Mandated around the concept of ‘Fun – Serious,’ the library programming locates the more active/noisier public activities to the lower floors while quieter study areas are situated on the upper levels. At street level, a series of multi-purpose rooms line the perimeter of the building, enhancing the connectivity between inside and outside. (Source Snøhetta )

Wood influences & applications continue throughout the library, Snøhetta
Light Rail Transit passing through Calgary Central Library
North corner reading stairs overlooking children’s section.
3rd floor reading area, Calgary Central Library
Reading studying area, Calgary Central Library
Slatted wood dividers populate various sections of the Calgary Central Library
Coffee bar lounge area
Resource area, Calgary Central Library
Coffee bar / gathering area 2nd floor, Calgary Central Library
3rd floor showcasing the extensive woodwork encasing the inner atrium & small boat design inspiration, Calgary Central Library
The eastern façade is carved away to reveal an expansive wood archway and main entrance access. The form references the Chinook cloud arches common to Calgary.
One of several gathering/reading areas, DIALOG
Play structure, children’s section west side
Viewing/reading areas encircle the atrium space, Calgary Central Library
Graphically representing parts of an open book, snowflakes, or interlocking houses, assorted hexagon shapes of alternating panels of fritted glass & iridescent aluminum cover the library’s exterior facade.
Children reading area (right) transitions gradually upward while reading stairs separate the 3rd floor, Calgary Central Library
The double-curved entrance design is one of the largest freeform timber shells in the world. Fabrication required over 20,000 precisely cut, bent & twisted individual pieces of western red cedar to form 300 panels, all held together by a skeleton-like wooden structure.
The building’s many hexagonal windows allow extensive amounts of natural light to permeate the space. Calgary Central Library
An 85-foot-light-filled atrium & western hemlock on the vertical surfaces & balustrades form the expansive elliptical space. StructureCraft
Library’s walkability and openness was another key factor in the project’s design.
One of many open concept study/reading areas.
Central Library looking north
Library’s crystalline geometric façade is punctuated with hexagonal-shaped glazing resembling snowflakes.
Switchback walkway & ramp design on the southern entrance provides natural seating areas and access to all visitors
The iconic stacked dory boat, wood-lined atrium, Calgary Central Library
Main floor looking south
Wood slats line the perimeter of the open atrium, where uniform corduroy patterns convey a sense of rhythm & movement

Angus Mackenzie

Canadian born automotive & architectural photographer. elemente magazine was born in 2006 as a Canadian national design publication . It remains as an online entity.

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