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Calgary Public Library, Canada

Commission : Snøhetta, Norway

A library built upon a fully operational rail line, the Calgary Public Library is one of the largest in North America. More than half of Calgary’s 1.2 million residents are active cardholders of the library which provides citizens 2, 40,000 sq ft of civic space to read, introspect, connect, create and recreate.

Earlier, a Light Rail Transit line divided the city into the Downtown and the East Village here with its half-moon curved track crossing the site from above to below the ground. The library now integrates them by allowing people arriving from all directions to come together at the library. The entry plaza acts as a bridge between the two, establishing visual and pedestrian connections across the site.
Trains passing through can be viewed by anyone sitting in a café at the library’s northernmost point. Care has been taken to mitigate sound and structural vibrations from passing trains. Additionally, the library’s livelier areas that encourage public activities are on its lower grounds while the quieter nooks are tucked away on higher floors. With something for everyone, there is plenty to absorb people of all ages and interests. There are play areas for children and amphitheaters for the library’s outdoor activities to spill on to.

The façade is a triple-glazed structure composed of a unique and geometrically varying pattern. This envelopes all sides of the building: thus, there is no one side that is the “front”; each has equal importance. An expansive wooden archway embraces approaching visitors, continuing into the lobby and atrium with upward spirals of over 85 feet that open to a view of the sky through the oculus.

The design is the result of intensive public participation. In 2012, over 16,000 people provided inputs for what they hope the library would do for their community.