Calgary Public Library is one of the most actively used library systems in North America, where more than half of its residents are active cardholders, and accordingly, the new main branch was created for and inspired by its diverse inhabitants.
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.
The Calgary Public Library system is actively used by over 670,000 Calgarians (over half of its 1.2M population) and plays a major role in connecting residents from all walks of life.
The new Central Library will join Studio Bell, the Arts Commons, and the Glenbow Museum as part of a burgeoning cultural campus in downtown Calgary and East Village.
Organized on a spectrum of ‘Fun’ to ‘Serious,’ the library program locates the livelier public activities on the lower floors, gradually transitioning to quieter study areas on the upper levels as one spirals upwards. At the street level, a series of multi-purpose rooms line the perimeter of the building, enhancing the connectivity between inside and outside.
Throughout the four floors, a variety of spaces provide for digital, analog, group, and individual interactions.
At the uppermost level of the library is the Great Reading Room, conceived as a jewel box tucked within the library, which provides a space for focused study and inspiration. Readers enter through a transitional space with softened light and acoustics. Within, vertical wood slats line the space to provide both privacy and visibility, defining an interior space without using solid walls.
Photo credits: Snøhetta