A new library has been added to the growing list of architectural hits in downtown Calgary, Canada. The $245-million Central Library in Calgary’s East Village is set to open in November and visitors will have more on their plate than just enjoying a good read. Calgary, a cosmopolitan Alberta city with numerous skyscrapers, owes its rapid growth to its status as the centre of Canada’s oil industry. It is also a city, which is known for its design and architecture. Calgary is growing into a destination for design lovers. And now, the new library adds another destination. Norway’s Snohetta and Calgary’s DIALOG are the architecture firms behind the new library, which will offer 30 free meeting rooms, a 350-seat performance hall, an Early Learning Centre for children and a space for teenagers with video, music and gaming stations. The library entrance will feature a large staircase leading up to an archway and will act as another gateway into the East Village, one of Calgary’s trendiest neighbourhoods. The new building will also have an open, accessible feel and will feature large windows, natural wood and a main feature in the roof called the oculus—a massive skylight that resembles the human eye. Calgary loves its books. The 19 public libraries dotted across Calgary remain filled with people. The number of people using libraries is quite awe-inspiring. There are 6.4 lakh active library users—folks who have a library card. Far from being a dying institution, Calgary libraries have become civic hubs of social, intellectual and educational knowledge, where kids can play and learn, teens can hang out, adults can sign up for courses, groups can book meeting rooms, and those seeking work can print off a resume for free.
With so many people using the system, it isn’t surprising that the hefty $245-million price tag for the new Central Library hasn’t caused ruckus unlike virtually every other civic spending initiative rolled out during the past few years of what has been a financially difficult time for Calgary taxpayers. The library is recognising all the people who have donated to the building with a pink light in front of the structure. The library is also recognising those who donate by putting their names, or a message, on the windows of the building. It’s all part of their ‘Windows of Opportunity’ initiative. The original design of the library was inspired by the concept of an ancient oil lamp, with light being used as a metaphor for libraries.
There’s another library, which was in news recently for its fabulous design. The West End Public Library is the first library in Washington, DC, to be entirely planned, funded and constructed as a public-private partnership. The library is encased in a two-storey-high, ceramic-fritted glass façade and the 21,000-sq-ft library contains seating area for some 200 people. There are 40 public-access computers with free Wi-Fi, a large programming room for up to 100 people, a conference room for up to 14 people and five study rooms. The book stacks are in vivid multi-coloured hues. The mural by Adrienne Gaither that runs along the entire back wall is a natural-toned abstract collage of letters spelling out the names of people who are part of the neighbourhood’s history.
Last week, American actor Daniel Wu, who acted in several prominent Hong Kong movies, earned a nomination for the ‘Oscars’ of architecture. A building that the architecture graduate co-designed (Mulan Weichang Visitor Centre located in Hebei, China) has earned him a nod from the Royal Institute of British Architects. The centre had a budget of 8,00,000 yuan. It is an enormous library with a skylight that allows star-gazing at night and six residential rooms.