Exploration and Whimsy at Calgary Central Library

January 30, 2019


The stunning new Calgary Central Library is an inspiring vision of what a public space can be. Designed by Snøhetta and DIALOG, the building welcomes, reflects and engages with its community. A landmark that transforms the streetscape, the library creates connections in a transitional area of the city by joining Calgary’s downtown with its East Village.

The architecture creates a striking sense of place that evokes local natural formations such as snow drifts and Chinook cloud clearings, while the façade’s interlocking hexagonal pattern has been likened to snowflakes, snow crystals and open books.

The signage, designed in collaboration with Snøhetta, is made of wood and reflects the building’s geometric forms. It sends a playful message of welcome through shape, colour and graphics.

The program strikes a careful balance, creating the sense of a unified journey while differentiating between the variety of spaces and resources found in the library. The form and placement of the wayfinding signage encourages visitors to explore the library’s intuitive vertical orientation and many offerings.

With a performance hall, café, a children’s early learning centre, recording studios, digital learning labs, a space just for teens, Indigenous art installations, reading rooms and nooks, free meeting areas, services for new comers and extensive programing, the library is a true community resource.

Libraries, where users need to locate information as well as destination, present a unique opportunity for wayfinding. Colour-coded graphics on stack ends help users identify each genre, while a custom signage system built right into the shelving, allows flexibility as the collection shifts.

In the “Calgary’s Story” area, historical images are used to identify the collection and reinforce sense of identity and place for this new Calgary landmark.

The new Calgary Central Library proves that that in a digital age, public libraries are more important than ever before. Architecture, materials, environmental graphics and programming combine to inspire a sense of discovery, inclusion and history. Community engagement has been an overwhelming success: during the new Central Library’s opening weekend from November 1-4, there were 52,223 visitors, 20,843 checked-out items, and 3,397 new members.