Calgary's New Central Library Design

    A photograph of the exterior of the Calgary Central Library from the middle of the street
    · 7 min read

    The landmark library will be a cultural connector between east and west communities

    In 2013, when Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) enthusiastically embraced the role of lead developer of the New Central Library, we were tasked with overseeing every aspect of design and construction of the new library in East Village.

    Since then, we’ve made frequent mention of our determination to develop “a landmark building and cultural icon that exemplifies design excellence and a community space that inspires thought, collaboration and conversation.”

    With today’s unveiling of the final architectural design - in 3D animation - for the New Central Library along with details about the library’s public art program, Calgarians will see exactly what we mean by “landmark” and “inspiring.”

    “The New Central Library embodies everything we’ve endeavoured to accomplish in our redevelopment of East Village,” says Lyle Edwards, Chairman, Calgary Municipal Land Corporation. “Our constant goal has been to connect Calgarians and to create a gathering place where guests will find stimulation, inspiration, entertainment and recreation. That’s precisely what we’re delivering through both the New Central Library and the revitalized neighbourhood of East Village as a whole.”

    “The New Central Library has been a long time coming, and moving forward with this project was a key part of my platform when I was first elected,” says Mayor Naheed Nenshi. “When City Council created the Community Investment Fund in 2011, we also created a mechanism to finalize the funding of a New Central Library that will serve the needs of a growing population now and into the future. I’m immensely proud of what we’ve achieved together—The City of Calgary, CMLC, Calgary Public Library, and all citizens. The New Central Library will be a new icon for Calgarians and a jewel of public space and opportunity for all.”

    The prime design consultant team, Snøhetta + DIALOG, deeply understand that a library is far more than just a building with books – something that’s evident in every aspect of the final design.

    “Since embarking on this project, one of the things we’ve kept reminding ourselves is that we don’t just want to build the best library in the world. We want to build the library that’s best for Calgary.” Craig Dykers of Snøhetta explains, “At this moment in time, with the city conditions that surround us, with the different needs of all of you in the community, we continue to ask ourselves, how we are going to make the right library?”

    The final design also reflects important insights and ideas that the project team – City of Calgary, Calgary Public Library (CPL) and CMLC – gleaned from two years of extensive public engagement, which culminated on September 4, 2014, in a public Open House discussion. More than 1,000 Calgarians turned to out to hear how the design team had incorporated their feedback into the functional program. A standing ovation was the net result.

    Calgarians told us they wanted a library with a wide range of gathering places, and the library’s 3rd Street Plaza is a great example of innovative public space. The entire concept for the building was shaped by the LRT tracks that bisect the library site in a north to south arc. The unique and organic curvature of the building and the soft terraces and ramps outside are sophisticated responses to the presence of the tracks. Architect Rob Adamson of DIALOG says, “The exterior and street life surrounding the library is just as much a part of the building as the interior. The outdoor plaza welcomes visitors from East Village and beyond and invites them into the building to explore, relax, reflect and connect.”

    Another key criterion for Calgarians was a library with plenty of natural light, and the New Central Library’s grand atrium ushers natural light deep into the building and enhances the exploratory experience within.

    Another important dimension of the New Central Library, geared toward making its spaces as inviting and inspiring as possible, is the public art program being shepherded by CMLC.

    “One per cent of the project budget has been earmarked for two public art initiatives,” says Michael Brown, President & CEO, CMLC. “The first involves the temporary fencing around the library construction site. To surprise, delight and inspire visitors even before the new library opens its doors, CMLC will commission local artists to create installations to be mounted on fencing at the construction site. The other involves the creation of permanent public art to beautify, enliven and activate various spaces within the new library complex. In July, CMLC initiated an open Request for Qualifications (RFQ) from artists and artist teams interested in creating permanent public art installations within the new library complex. The RFQ closed on September 15 and our selection committee is now wading through the 217 responses we received.”

    Along with a sophisticated design and engaging public art program, the New Central Library is providing a catalyst for the CPL to reassert its relevance and appeal as it prepares for its next century of operations.

    “We’re undertaking a system-wide rebranding to bring forward a new generation of ideas that will help to articulate our evolving value and services, inspire our staff and attract new members,” says CPL Board Chair Janet Hutchinson. “Following a request for proposals that attracted responses from some of the best branding firms in the nation, we have chosen Edelman to help modernize our story and keep it relevant for all Calgarians.”

    Construction of the New Central Library is already underway with the LRT encapsulation program. Soon the first installation of hoarding art will envelop the site.

    We invite Calgarians to follow our progress via a webcam on the Bow Valley College building.

    Imagined as a mixed-use, amenity-rich master-planned neighbourhood in the downtown core, East Village will be home to more than 11,000 residents upon completion in 2027. With local amenities like RiverWalk, St. Patrick’s Island Park, the New Central Library, National Music Centre and an urban shopping centre, East Village has become a highly desirable neighbourhood in Calgary’s downtown core.

    For more information about the East Village project or to watch our 3D animation on the New Central Library, visit us at

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