Calgary Central Library wins 2020 AIA award
Snøhetta and DIALOG praised for ‘exemplary design’
Calgary’s Central Library, designed by Snøhetta and DIALOG, has received an Architecture Honor award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The AIA awards were founded to celebrate outstanding buildings and spaces, while highlighting how designing thoughtfully in the public realm can enhance our sense of place and belonging. Located on a complex plot divided by a light railway, the designers used the library to create a unified public space - with the building’s façade taking a key role in establishing a welcoming presence.
Completed in 2018, the library can accommodate more than twice as many annual visitors as the facility it replaced, with 75,000 sq ft of entry plaza and an outdoor amphitheatre. The striking triple-glazed façade is composed of a modular, hexagonal pattern which opens in places, echoing the library’s efforts to welcome all visitors. Variations of the pattern are scattered across the building’s curved surface in glass and aluminium, giving rise to shapes that resemble familiar forms, such as an open book.
In order to breach the divide caused by the light rail line, the team lifted the main entry over an enclosed part of the railway, with gently terraced slopes rising up to the heart of the building. The geometry of the façade was carved away, revealing a wood archway that references the Chinook cloud arch, a local weather formation caused by a band of stationary clouds over the Rocky Mountains. The library arch ranks among the largest freeform timber shells in the world, made entirely from planks of western red cedar from British Columbia.
The whole building is encased in the same façade, allowing every side to operate as the ‘front’ of the building, while the visual vocabulary plays a significant part in the library’s new identity and wayfinding inside. The awards jury praised Snøhetta and DIALOG for a “thoughtful, integrated and exemplary design that artfully weaves together the collective vision and values of design, client, community and sustainability….a true reflection of Calgary as well as this AIA Honors Award.”