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  1. Project
10 May 2019

New Central Library, Calgary

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

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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 was opened for public in November 2018.

The New Central Library provides approximately 240,000ft² of library space, 66% more than that of the old public library. It accommodates around 600,000 books and provides space to conduct 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 is the first time in Calgary’s history that an active LRT line is encased to allow an above-grade development project.

The project was awarded Canadian Architect Award of Merit 2015 and listed in Architectural Digest’s list of the 12 most anticipated buildings of 2018.

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 exhibits a terraced landscape at the base, which covers the LRT tunnel. Wood-clad arches inspired by the ‘Chinook’ arch cloud formations common to Alberta 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 the public.”

The outdoor plaza leads to an open, sky-lit atrium. The library is organised vertically, with room for public programmes and circulation corridors along the atrium’s perimeter.

It features transparent, engaging spaces on the lower levels, and spiral to focused study areas near the skylight on the upper levels. The fourth level of the library houses a large study hall called the great reading room.

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

Apart from housing books, the library also contains interactive areas such as technologically advanced multi-purpose meeting spaces, lecture theatres, learning rooms, children’s activity areas, recording studios, cafes and lounge areas.

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

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

Financing for the new library in Calgary

The new library was built at a total cost of $245m. The Calgary City Council contributed $40m towards the project development in 2004 and further released an additional $135m in 2011 from Calgary’s Community Investment Fund.

CMLC provided $70m from its Community Revitalization Levy (CRL).

Encapsulation of the LRT line

The library is 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 is 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 involved 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 was completed in four phases. The first phase involved the installation of the encapsulation foundations and walls, with the underground power cables relocated to the encapsulation walls during the second phase.

The contact wire supplying overhead power to the trains was lowered in the third phase, while the fourth phase included the installation of pre-cast concrete roof panels.

Key players involved with the New Central Library

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

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

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