November 10, 2013
by Canadian Architect
The search for an architectural team is over, and the design of Calgary’s much-anticipated new Central Library is set to begin. Since issuing a RFQ in May 2013, Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) – the developer City Council has entrusted to manage, coordinate and supervise design and construction of the new Central Library – has worked diligently through a two-stage procurement process that first narrowed 38 international submissions to a shortlist of four firms and then selected the prime design consultant from those immensely qualified finalists.
The current Central Library was built in two phases in 1963 and 1974, when the population of Calgary was less than 400,000. Now, nearly 50 years later, the building is stretched beyond capacity to support the growing operations of the Calgary Public Library. As the new Central Library renews its commitment to community service and enrichment in its second century, it welcomes all Calgarians to a physical and virtual space that’s friendly, trusted and non-commercial. To bring a new vision to life through powerful enduring architecture and place-making, CMLC’s selection committee has chosen the team of Snøhetta (an international architecture firm with offices in Oslo and New York) and DIALOG, a Canadian firm with locations in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto.
Beyond installing Snøhetta and DIALOG as the design brain trust for the project, CMLC has engaged MHPM as Project Managers and Stuart Olson Dominion Construction to round out the powerhouse project team that will bring the new library to fruition. In addition to creating a landmark that embodies the New Central Library’s vision, this team will need to creatively address some sizeable design challenges – including the need to build around the existing LRT line.
“We’re ready and incredibly excited to get going,” said Craig Dykers, founding partner of Snøhetta, New York. “With our local partner, DIALOG, we bring a unique set of local, national and international experiences which will guide our thinking for Calgary’s new Central Library.”
Planning for this project has been in the works since 2004, when City Council committed $40 million toward the project. In July 2011, the City committed an additional $135 million from the Community Investment Fund and earlier this year CMLC received Board approval to contribute the balance of funds required to complete the $245-million project – an investment that marks CMLC’s foray into vertical development. Construction of the new Central Library is expected to begin in early 2014 with site preparation work; the facility is anticipated to open by 2018.
The location of the new library, adjacent to City Hall, will strengthen the fabric of community life by weaving East Village, the original heart of Calgary, back into the story of Centre City. From this prime location, the library will not only serve Calgary’s growing population but also the 140,000+ workers and students who travel downtown every day.
To ensure the new library meets citizens’ needs, the City of Calgary, in collaboration with the Calgary Public Library, ran a robust 6-month public engagement program through which more than 16,500 Calgarians shared their ideas, aspirations and hopes for the new Central Library online and in person at over 150 events and public forum opportunities. Equipped with this input, Snøhetta and DIALOG are getting a great jumpstart in the process of designing and delivering a great library.
In response to this input from the public as well as from library customers and staff and the City of Calgary, the new Central Library will be designed with spaces that are flexible, specialized and community-oriented in a building that’s 66% larger overall than the existing downtown library. This multifaceted family destination and gathering place will include a physical collection of approximately 600,000 books, special programs and spaces for children and teens, a technology commons and laboratory for innovation, a centre that supports inclusive community integration and advancement through skills development, and much more.
site of new central library in calgary's east village