New Central Library, Calgary, Canada


The Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) is constructing a new public library adjacent to City Hall in East Village, downtown Calgary, Canada.

The arching glass library was designed by Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta, in association with DIALOG. The team was selected from a shortlist of four in November 2013, and the final design was revealed in September 2014. The library construction is expected to be completed in 2018.

The New Central Library will provide approximately 240,000ft2 of library space, 66% more than that of the existing public library. It will accommodate around 600,000 books, special programmes and spaces for children.



The Bow office tower, located in the Calgary City of the Alberta province of Canada, officially opened in June 2013. The 236m-high, 58-storey structure is the tallest building in Calgary and the third tallest in Canada.


A unique feature of the building is the encapsulation of the existing light rail transit line that bisects the library site. It will be the first time in Calgary's history that an active LRT line will be encased to allow an above-grade development project.

Funding for the new library in Calgary

The new library is estimated to require an investment of $245m. The Calgary City Council contributed $40m in 2004 towards the development of the project, and committed an additional $135m in 2011 from Calgary's Community Investment Fund. The CMLC provided $70m from its Community Revitalization Levy (CRL).

New Central Library building design

The design of the four-storey building was influenced by the nearby foothills, the shape of the site, and the encapsulation of the LRT tracks.

The curved building will exhibit a terraced landscape at the base, which will cover the LRT tunnel. Wood-clad arches inspired by the 'Chinook' arch cloud formations common to Alberta will frame the entrance to form an outdoor plaza and civic space.

"The library was designed with a focus on public accessibility and community-oriented spaces, and approximately 80% of the building is open to public."

The outdoor plaza will lead to an open, sky-lit atrium. The library will be organised vertically, with public programmes and circulation corridors along the atrium's perimeter. It will feature transparent, engaging spaces on the lower levels, and spiral to focused study areas near the skylight on the upper levels.

The library was designed with a focus on public accessibility and community-oriented spaces, and approximately 80% of the building is open to public. Apart from housing books, the library will also contain interactive areas, such as technologically-advanced multi-purpose meeting spaces, lecture theatres and learning rooms, children's activity areas, as well as recording studios, cafes and lounge areas.

The facade of the building will consist of a unique geometric pattern, made up of clear and fitted glass openings that will allow desired levels of daylight into the building.

Permanent public art will be exhibited in a number of spaces within the new library complex to enliven the building.

Encapsulation of the LRT line

The library will be built over Calgary's busiest LRT line, that bisects the site in a north-south arc, occupying approximately 40% of the site area. The Calgary Transit South East corridor tracks descend from street level into an underground tunnel near the south-western corner of the site.

"The library will be built over Calgary's busiest LRT line, that bisects the site in a north-south arc, occupying approximately 40% of the site area."

The building structure is designed to encapsulate 135m of the active LRT track, without interrupting the rail service. The encapsulation will involve the construction of a new concrete structure, with a clear span of approximately 12m across the existing LRT tracks just north of the CP Rail tunnel exit.

The encapsulation will be completed in four phases. The first phase will involve the installation of the encapsulation foundations and walls, the underground power cables will be relocated to the encapsulation walls in the second phase, the contact wire supplying overhead power to the trains will be lowered in the third phase, and the fourth phase will include the installation of pre-cast concrete roof panels.

Encapsulation work began in May 2014 and is expected to be completed in the summer of 2015.

Key players involved with the New Central Library

DIALOG is the executive architect for the project, and also provided mechanical, landscaping and urban design services. Entuitive served as the structural engineering consultant and SMP Engineering was responsible for electrical engineering for the project.

Stuart Olson Dominion Construction was selected as the construction manager for the project, while MHPM is serving as the project manager.