As the BMO Centre expansion nears completion, we’re excited to bring you more behind the scenes details of the special features and remarkable teams that will make the convention centre a top-tier destination and anchor to Calgary’s Culture + Entertainment District.
The magic of a convention happens not just on the trade show floor or in the keynote speeches, but also in the moments in between, when conference-goers gather and connect outside a meeting room, at the bar or around Canada’s largest indoor fireplace. It’s with those moments of connection in mind that CMLC, the Calgary Stampede and the design team of Stantec, Populous and S2 conceived of a unique and spectacular year-round lighting feature in the BMO Centre’s new plaza, which will draw visitors to the facility’s primary entrance and grand staircase, creating a sense of arrival and wonder for guests to Western Canada’s largest convention centre.
A bespoke animated lighting program will grace the 170-foot curved canopy that reaches seamlessly out of the expansion and onto the outdoor plaza on the south side of the building. While the canopy itself provides partial coverage for patrons in the outdoor plaza, the underside of the canopy are home to thousands of programmable LED lights that will display an animated lighting program inspired by the energy of the Calgary Stampede and regional surroundings.
The collaborative effort of the prime design team of Stantec, Populous and S2, the experts at Heavy, and technical lighting designers at Eos Lightmedia, played a pivotal role in developing the design for the iconic lighting feature.
"When designing the primary entrance of the BMO Centre expansion, we knew we needed to create a memorable marquee sense of arrival for guests as they might experience with arriving at a hotel,” said Léo Lejeune, Senior Principal at Stantec.“ Light plays a key role in how a space functions and how visitors move around. While the canopy itself was designed to anchor the three-story building and bring the scale of the expansion down to an appreciative level for pedestrians flowing through the site, the lighting program captures the energy from inside the building and creates a sense of wonder for those approaching the facility. A lighting feature of this scale is unique to convention centres and will create an iconic and memorable experience for everyone.”
To execute the design of the metal fabrication for the lighting feature, CMLC reached out to local firm Heavy, who specialize in unique installations of this size. Heavy was tasked with creating the design for the fabrication of the 1,500 unique lighting soffits that allow light to pass through but are discrete enough to go unnoticeable in the daytime.
“Creating the design for the feature was a true collaboration with the team at Stantec, Populous, S2, CMLC and the Calgary Stampede,” said Connor Hayduk, Director of Creative at Heavy. “In choosing the materials and design for the lighting fixtures, we wanted to create a sense of place and lean into on the western heritage of the Calgary Stampede. The matte blackened steel soffits are uniquely cut to allow light to shine through as slits of light would break through barn boards. Once we had the overall design and intent in place, the team worked to panelize the complex, radiating form and develop the strategy for attaching the individual soffit panels onto the base building structure.”
The installation of the lights presented its own set of challenges, including varying mounting heights that required access from lifts ranging from 10 to 80 feet in the air. The dedicated teams worked tirelessly to overcome these challenges and bring this captivating feature to life.
In developing the lighting program for the feature, Eos Lightmedia worked in tandem with Heavy to deliver the vision for a thematic display that reflected the energy of the Stampede and its spectacular fireworks show, along with the rich heritage of the west—which includes bright golden bonfires, raging blue rivers, and twinkling auroras in the night sky. In fact, the interplay of vibrant colours and dynamic patterns harmonizing with the night sky was inspired, in part, by the Gordon Lightfoot lyric, “Oh the prairie lights are burnin’ bright, The Chinook wind is a-movin’ in, Tomorrow night I’ll be Alberta bound.”
“Our team was honoured to work collaboratively on this important project alongside Stantec, Populous, S2 and Heavy to create a unique and one-of-a-kind immersive light display,” said Scott Hendrickson, Director of Special Projects at Eos Lightmedia. “We started working with the idea to connect the lighting back to the city and community. We took pieces that are part of the local fabric and culture and turned them into expressions of movement and energy. We also incorporated unique technologies in the lighting system itself, including an astronomical clock that has a transforming rhythm to match the changing seasons. As the night gets longer, the shows get longer themselves, allowing Stampede to tell different stories, making the lighting display so much more than just a rotating ‘show’ of lights.”
With the expansion project nearing completion, the exterior lighting feature will cast a radiant glow on the city’s downtown landscape when the BMO Centre expansion opens for Stampede 2024.
Stay tuned for more spotlights as we count down to the grand opening of the BMO Centre expansion.