Canadian Architect

Feature

Music of the Spheres

A curvilinear centre for musical performance, exhibition and recording hits all the right notes, creating a sublime landmark at the eastern edge of downtown Calgary.

February 9, 2017
by Graham Livesey

Studio Bell bridges over 4 Street SE at the eastern edge of downtown Calgary.

Studio Bell bridges over 4 Street SE at the eastern edge of downtown Calgary.

PROJECT Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre
ARCHITECTS Allied Works Architecture with Kasian Architecture (Associate Architect)
TEXT Graham Livesey
PHOTOS Jeremy Bittermann, unless otherwise noted

The new Studio Bell, home to the National Music Centre in Calgary, is an architectural tour-de-force. It’s one of the most spectacular buildings constructed in North America during the last decade. The recipient of a Progressive Architecture Award from Architect Magazine in 2014, it’s the most ambitious and accomplished project to date by Allied Works, who worked with associate architect Kasian to realize the design. And despite its American design pedigree, the project is very worthy of Canada’s newest national institution, one of several outside of Ottawa-Hull.

The overall form of the building combines a gateway with a fortress; it is an urban block that tightly fills its site. A striking feature is the bridging element that straddles the street and is seamlessly integrated into the overall building. Clad in terracotta tile, the exterior is monolithic and relatively mute. The flat surfaces of the façade are a charcoal colour, while the sweeping curved elements are finished in a gold-coloured tile that extends into the interiors.

Complex interstitial spaces slice through the design, generating a wealth of intriguing views from many vantage points throughout the building.

Complex interstitial spaces slice through the design, generating a wealth of intriguing views from many vantage points throughout the building.

The hallucinogenic aspects of the design are only revealed when one enters. From the lobby, one looks up through soaring and shimmering shafts of space—reminiscent of deep crevasses in a glacier, or being inside the workings of a brass instrument. The architecture is at its best in the in-between spaces, where clear Alberta light bounces off the golden curvilinear and leaning forms, and complexity is created through layered depth.

Studio Bell marks the culmination of a two-decade long process initiated by a group of Calgary-based business people. Key to its realization was the work of National Music Centre CEO and President Andrew Mosker. The ambitious program of the 16,852-square-metre facility includes housing the collection of the former Cantos Music Museum, a collection of over 2,000 artifacts that includes historic instruments as well as electronica and recording equipment. Noteworthy pieces range from the Rolling Stones’ Mobile Studio to Elton John’s white piano, on which he wrote his first five albums.

An international design competition for a new home for the collection was held in 2009, and Portland-based Allied Works Architecture was selected over finalists Ateliers Jean Nouvel, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Saucier + Perrotte, and Studio Pali Fekete. Established in 1994 and directed by Brad Cloepfil, Allied Works is a relatively small firm, but one that has been at the forefront of American architecture after completing the Wieden + Kennedy advertising agency in Portland in 2000. Since then, their portfolio has included the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis (2003), the Seattle Art Museum expansion (2007), the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas (2008), the Museum of Arts and Design in New York (2008) and the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver (2011). Each of these is characterized by taut rectilinearity, meticulous attention to detail, and an accumulating expertise and confidence.

A view looking up from the performance hall provides glimpses of the rich spatial layering.

A view looking up from the performance hall provides glimpses of the rich spatial layering.

Defining the program for this uncommon institution was one of the first challenges for the architects and clients. The team took cues from projects such as the Cité de la Musique in Paris by Christian de Portzamparc (1995). At one point, they hit upon the idea that the building should have the openness of a music festival. This resulted, for example, in the design of an open performance hall—the Jaimie Hill and Tammy-Lynn Powers Memorial Stage—that overlooks and shares its space with the main lobby, and where a wide range of performers can play.

The musical openness of the central stage extends to the entire building and to its ambitious programming, which includes live performances and artist-in-residence programs. Beyond its remarkable collection, Studio Bell houses several state-of-the-art recording studios, celebration spaces, a public radio station, offices, and the renovated King Edward Hotel. The centre is also home to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame Collection.

Glazed terracotta tiles clad the interior volumes, conceived as towers containing the exhibition spaces. Photo: Brandon Wallis.

Glazed terracotta tiles clad the interior volumes, conceived as towers containing the exhibition spaces. Photo: Brandon Wallis.

Cloepfil drew inspiration from such iconic Alberta landscape features as glaciers, hoodoos and grain elevators. Indeed, the rough-edged site in itself was largely devoid of references, apart from the adjoining CPR railway tracks and the evolving context of Calgary’s burgeoning East Village to the north. One key issue was to incorporate the historic King Edward Hotel, an insalubrious dive that once housed a famous blues club. This involved dismantling the old hotel, and reconstructing it brick by brick.

The curved forms employed by Allied Works for Studio Bell are a departure in the work of the firm, first signaled in its 2010 entry to the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec competition and other un-built work from this period. This shift has been enabled by the firm’s increasing facility with digital design software. Their upcoming project for the National Veterans Memorial and Museum in Columbus, Ohio, displays an even more radical exploration of curvilinear geometries.

The main performance hall overlooks Studio Bell’s lobby, creating a music festival atmosphere where performance and sound fill the air. A pair of helical stairs flanks the lobby.

The main performance hall overlooks Studio Bell’s lobby, creating a music festival atmosphere where performance and sound fill the air. A pair of helical stairs flanks the lobby.

Balancing out its digitally driven production, Allied Works’ design process involves a wide range of early concept drawings and models. These can be understood as touchstones that describe the essential ideas of the project, and help ensure that ideas are not lost during the long design development and construction phases. Cloepfil says that the models provide “a material exploration, a search for evocation and provocation.” He adds, “As objects, they are potent and expressive with content that can be expanded by other disciplines and in multiple media.” An exhibition of the firm’s evocative objects, entitled Case Work, was on display last year at art museums in Denver and Portland.

An early concept model incorporates segments of brass instruments.

An early concept model incorporates segments of brass instruments.

The concept models for Studio Bell are a clear response to music and acoustics, and initially incorporated sections cut from disused brass instruments. The ineffable relationship between architecture and music in these models recalls Le Corbusier’s interest in “acoustic” forms. In works such as the chapel of Notre-Dame-du-Haut at Ronchamp and in a remarkable series of post-1944 sculptures executed by Joseph Savina, Le Corbusier presented forms that have “acoustic resonance,” according to historian Christopher Pearson. So too, it seems, do the forms of Studio Bell.

A later model displays the concept of the museum as a series of containers.

A later model displays the concept of the museum as a series of containers.

In describing the concept, the designers state: “Nine towers form the body of the building; the vessel walls, clad in terracotta, rise in subtle curves that merge, part and intertwine, modeled by light, gravity and acoustics.” An analysis of the detailed study model and final drawings re-veal how the towers transform from rectangular to curvilinear as they rise through the building. A slight skewing of the plan accommodates site geometries but is imperceptible in reality. What appears to be relatively simple and ordered in plan and section results, in actuality, in remarkable and very satisfying architectural complexity.

The mysterious architectural qualities of the building continue to unfold as one rises up double staircases, moves through galleries which also serve as stages, and passes through in-between spaces on short bridges. The ascent culminates in the fantastical Cloud Lounge, which leads to the bridging element that unites the two blocks of the project. Within the entire ensemble, the galleries do get somewhat overwhelmed, and on the west side, the organization of the block is rudimentary—the most disappointing space being a rather underdeveloped rooftop terrace above the King Eddy hotel. The new version of the King Eddy itself feels too clean, but some day it may regain the grungy overlay of the former club. Further, the main entrances to the building are curiously discreet.

The performance hall includes flexible seating for 300 spectators and a moveable acoustic wall that allows the space to be closed for more intimate performances.

The performance hall includes flexible seating for 300 spectators and a moveable acoustic wall that allows the space to be closed for more intimate performances.

But if one needs to search for the entry points, the time is well spent studying the terracotta cladding, which evidences an impressive devotion to detail. The cladding is based on the designers’ envelope for the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. For Studio Bell, Allied Works worked closely with German terracotta façade manufacturer Moeding and Dutch ceramic tile manufacturer Royal Tichelaar Makkum to get the right colours and sheen for the 220,000 tiles that clad the exterior and interior. Each tile is precisely fastened to the build-ing in a rainscreen arrangement, and, intriguingly, there are also several places where the tile partially covers windows. One cannot help but think that Gio Ponti’s under-appreciated tile-clad Denver Art Museum Building (1971), which sits adjacent to Allied Works’ Clyfford Still Museum, is somewhere in the DNA of Studio Bell.

A skybridge connects the main volume of Studio Bell to the renovated King Edward Hotel across the street, a legendary blues venue that has now been incorporated into the National Music Centre.

A skybridge connects the main volume of Studio Bell to the renovated King Edward Hotel across the street, a legendary blues venue that has now been incorporated into the National Music Centre.

It is a challenge to describe a building that holds within it complex spatial figures that overlap, warp, tilt, and curve, despite the relatively straightforward conceptual premise of the building. And in fact, it must be experienced first hand. But even from afar, Studio Bell is a monumental celebration of Canadian music, presenting an urban form that is strong and elusive, recognizable and unique, the building as an instrument. Ultimately, Studio Bell follows through on a series of bold decisions: to build a national landmark in Calgary, to address a challenging site, to define a new institution, and to let an accomplished architect produce a masterpiece.

Graham Livesey, MRAIC is a professor and associate dean in the Master of Architecture program at the University of Calgary.


CLIENT NATIONAL MUSIC CENTRE (ANDREW MOSKER, ROB BRAIDE, CHARLIE FISCHER) |ARCHITECT TEAM AWA—BRAD CLOEPFIL, KYLE LOMMEN, CHELSEA GRASSINGER, DANIEL RICHMOND, DAN KOCH, KYLE CALDWELL, PAUL BICKELL, BROCK HINZE, BJORN NELSON, PHILIP BALSINGER. KASIAN—BILL CHOMIK, DAVID MOISIK, MELODY ZALESCHUK, GUY POCOCK, PABLO ESCABILLAS, KEN CHIANG, FRED VOO, TIM YEUNG, ESTHER RIVARD-SIROIS, AMBER ARNOLD, SEAN CRAWFORD. |STRUCTURALRJC |ELECTRICAL SMP |MECHANICAL STANTEC |CONTRACTOR CANA CONSTRUCTION |EXHIBITION DESIGN HALEY SHARPE DESIGN |THEATRE DESIGN FISHER DACHS ASSOCIATES |ACOUSTICS AND A/V JAFFEHOLDEN |TILE DESIGN ROYAL TICHELAAR MAKKUM |EXHIBITION CONTENT DESIGNST. JOSEPH MEDIA |RECORDING STUDIO DESIGN PILCHNER SCHOUSTAL INTERNATIONAL INC. |AREA 16,852 M2 (INCLUDING NEW CONSTRUCTION AND RENOVATED AREAS) |BUDGET $191 M |COMPLETION OCTOBER 2016


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2 Comments » for Music of the Spheres
  1. Oli Pennock says:

    The blurry person in the bottom right of the lobby photo (5th photo down) is me.

    Stoked

  2. Joe Barnett says:

    UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE – MUSIC OF THE SPHERES

    Dr. Angela Barnett
    Mary Magdalene
    Mary Magdalene’s Cosmic Bible
    God’s Musical Creation of Eternal Harmony by Mary Magdalene
    https://CrystalMagicOrchestra.com

    https://crystalmagicorchestra.com/how-we-record-music

    UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE – MUSIC OF THE SPHERES YouTube

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2fRKjKADOo

    https://youtu.be/o2fRKjKADOo

    Spiritual Healing

    https://crystalmagicorchestra.com/spiritual-healing-and-ascension-training

    Click Here to go to Dr. Angela Barnett page on CDBaby

    https://store.cdbaby.com/Artist/DrAngelaBarnett

    MORPHING NEW REALITIES THROUGH THE MUSIC OF THE SPHERES

    “Your music is like water colors in many ways because it blends together, but once you see it then you know what to do with it. You are an artist in many forms. And as a Creator Being you are a great artist. We all are. But, as a human, you are a greater artist than many. The colors that you evoke in others, not only sounds, comes from you, but evocative colors, evocative feelings, and the love and sexuality and sensuality that is who you really are and the things that you have felt within yourself that rise up from this atmosphere and out into eternity. It is not just a small thing that you do, but it is eternal. This music, these colors, and the way things are conceived.

    And I always loved your music always, and we did music together.

    We used to get together with a few of us and make music in the universe that was very different than anything that had been heard before. We would try to be unique and outstanding. And we were there to do that and felt a great accomplishment, especially when some of the vibrations that we used would effect some plants or animals in other worlds or other scenarios that we hadn’t even thought of. Being Creator Beings, we can effect things some times without even knowing it. But then when we discovered it, it was a grand and new understanding for us all.

    And you Mary, you are very musical as well. You have a voice of an Angel. A beauty. A group of us would get together and you were in the group. And so, there for it was the most beautiful time and it will be again.
    In the creator realm I could feel the smile on your face. I don’t have to see it because I can feel it in the universe and in the galaxy. So wonderful.”

    It is all about creating something to go with the music. You always have something that is growing. Look outside of your window. Are there many different things growing. There are many things growing and it is part of the symphony and there are things dying and that is a part of the symphony too. The flats and the sharps they come together and they make a beautiful sound. And it is universal tonality. The way things should be. And the way they blend together and how they dissonate together, but can be of the greatest of sounds in the universe that can strike in your hearts the emotions of great things that are happening far away.

    We did some creating together with colors. Some realms have more color than others and when you blend them together and move them around in certain ways it creates energies. We were good at creating energy together. This energy still is around in the universe, and has developed into beautiful patterns within the Novas, Super Novas, and Nebulas that are out there. It is just an amazing color scheme that comes through the crystals that are in some of those areas. The power that is emanating from them can be used for many different kinds of uses. So Exciting!!!

    Are these colors a part of the Music of the Spheres?

    That is part of it. The Music of the Spheres is multi dimensional. It is hard to describe. Not only is it music, but it is color, it is energy, it is eternal, it is breath, it is life, but it is still in an evolutionary state. It is and it causes awakening in many many places- in Souls. They can not understand anything else, but this kind of creation. It will be like a breath of air that is to be breathed. And as you breathe out it morphs into a greater beauty than it was when you breathed it in. Because the beauty of the essence of the one who breathed it in is now a part of it, and it comes out even fuller than it was when it went in.

    The rhythm of the Universe is multifaceted. There are some rhythms that you might say are a bit chaotic, and other rhythms that are very steady, and other rhythms that change, and other rhythms that are linear. But, yes, it is all a part of that beautiful creation.

    Each planet, each orb, each sun, has its own sense of rhythm, and existence, and its own sense of sound of music, and therefore when they mix, they perform the symphony of the universe. So, Joe, as a creator being, is one of those great instruments that causes the sound that reverberates around the universe. We all are instruments. We are the Creators. We are the orchestrators, the composers, the directors because God is in you and God is all things and God can help you develop all things within you and create.

    Joes’ new music is magnificent. Joe thinks it sounds too much the same but it is not. There are differences in the emotional and thought patterns coming forth.
    Just like the Trinary language of the Dolphins. Eventhough it might sound like a similar sound, a slight alteration could change the meaning of the entire paragraph.
    So, when you bring forth your sound you are altering the meaning and the intention so people can feel it in slightly a different way.

    And it moves through the brain cells in a way that will stimulate them in the most effective way. You are wanting that emotion to be felt by the brain and the body, so therefore your intentions for your music are becoming greater and more full, especially now that you have obtained a less density the densiy in your music has also obtained that. It is what it is, and you are a Creator Being and you reach into yourself and those sounds that you feel and emote with your music are eternal. All things created by Creator beings are eternal and they will stay in the universe until someone else hears them and picks them up and uses them. And they are not a full creator being, but they have become a part of you by using your music.

    They can learn a little bit about you from the music that they have gathered from you. For instance, Beethoven did not know where his music was coming from and Einstein knew his ideas were coming from the music of the spheres, so they were not full creator beings, but they could use a part of that which was a creator being which made them become a part of your essence.

    Dr. Angela Barnett
    Mary Magdalene
    Mary Magdalene’s Cosmic Bible
    God’s Musical Creation of Eternal Harmony by Mary Magdalene
    https://CrystalMagicOrchestra.com

    https://crystalmagicorchestra.com/how-we-record-music





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