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05 Dec 2019

One Year In: Calgary Public Library by Snøhetta

Words by  Photo by Michael Grimm

It’s been one year since Calgary’s Public Library opened its doors to the public... 

Calgary’s Central Library

Architect: Snøhetta

One year ago, Calgary’s Central Library opened its doors to the public, ushered in by celebrations that drew 50,000 people over the opening weekend.

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When we set out to design a new central library branch in Calgary, our focus was on the complex site.

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A Light Rail Transit line bisects the lot and had created a critical divide between the East Village and Downtown neighbourhoods.

Our design responds to this condition and lifts the main entry over the encapsulated train line.

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Gently terraced slopes rise-up to the heart of the building, allowing for people arriving from every direction to interact with the library and ensuring that the building does not turn its back on either neighbourhood.

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Calgary Public Library is one of North America’s largest library systems, receiving nearly 7 million visits annually and more than 58% of Calgarians are active members.

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Since the opening of the new Central Library, the building has welcomed more than 1.74 million people through its doors.

Organized on a spectrum of ‘Fun’ to ‘Serious,’ the library programs livelier public activities on the lower floors, gradually transitioning to quieter study areas on the upper levels as one spirals upwards.

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Calgary’s Central Library provides spaces for all types of people and activities—for social interaction and exchange, for studying and learning, for quiet and introspection—championing the unique civic function that libraries provide today.

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Client: Calgary Public

Calgary’s new Central Library represents the evolution of libraries and demonstrates how collaboration and thoughtful design can create meaningful spaces for a wide range of users.

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The new Central Library replaces the old Central Library that was built in 1963.

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At the new Central Library, and across the entire Library system, Calgary Public Library’s innovative services, programs, and spaces are engaging Calgarians like never before.

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This structure embodies how building for community can and should be done. The building is an inspiring community hub, full of opportunities everybody can access for free.

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From specialised spaces to a collection of 450,000 items, the features inside are all designed to meet specific community needs.

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At a time when central libraries are being neglected, Calgary’s new Central Library is a model of all that is possible.

The community response to the new Library continues to exceed expectations and has led to a dramatic increase in Library usage.

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The Central Library has become a go-to destination signing up 61,300 new Library members, offering 860 free tours and providing over 5,100 programs to 107,600 attendees since opening one year ago.

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The 240,000 square foot architectural icon in downtown Calgary has also been recognized for its inspiring design, designated as a ‘library of the future’ by the prestigious Architectural Digest and being named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Greatest Places of 2019.

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Part destination, part community gathering place, the Central Library was built to inspire Calgarians for the next 100 years.

For more from our One Year In series click here

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