Named by Architectural Digest as one of this year’s most anticipated buildings on the planet, the $245-million Calgary Public Library opened its doors Nov. 1 with hundreds of Calgarians streaming into the East Village space for the big reveal.
Calm, light, inspirational
“It’s very welcoming,” says Maria Figueroa who arrived in Calgary last March from the United States.
It’s “open, very clean, very modern but [not] too modern,” she says, adding that the wood combined with the windows gives off a relaxing and spacious atmosphere.
“We were enjoying this day of being tourists in our own city,” says Sara Smith who with her friend Liz Taylor were pressed up against the fourth-floor windows, talking excitedly about the C-trains rolling by below.
The library “brought on a whole lot of exploration in what the city looks like,” says Smith, adding that “when you’re driving [at] car-level, you don’t appreciate or see” that.
“It’s full of light, neat angles and beautiful vistas,” adds Taylor. “You can see right from the top to the bottom floor and it’s all sort of unobstructed.”
“There’s not much art on the walls,” she says, similar to an open canvas. “It feels like a great place to really just expand your mind and just explore.”
“This is about celebrating, learning and being together,” Taylor continues. “There’s every nationality you can think of in this building right now and everyone is friendly and happy and enjoying themselves.”
The 240,000 sq. feet (21,600 sq. m) architecture is the culmination of nearly 100 ideas and the feedback of 16,000 Calgarians, says Mary Kapusta, the library’s director of communications.
“It is so much more than what we think of in a library,” says Kapusta. “It really is a community hub.”
“We did a lot of consultation with retail consultants and experts to think about how can we take some of those best practices and elements that make a great visitor-experience in a retail environment and apply that to a library.”
A stepping stone to Indigenous culture
“It is important to remember that libraries are democratic institutions that are acceptable to all,” says Kapusta, adding that removing barriers was crucial in the creation of the space.
Teneya Gwin, the library’s Indigenous services design lead, says it’s about bringing presence and education.
“When I first started here at the library two years ago, I started looking at the spaces being developed [and] I didn’t really see myself as an Indigenous person represented in spaces where we would be."
“There are newcomers that come to the City of Calgary and don’t know that there has been a long history here on this land,” she says, adding, “It’s an exciting time to bring education to the original people of this land but also [bring] warmth to our spaces through art.”
“It is just such an awesome homage to our culture,” says Keegan Starlight, whose painting of an Indigenous mother and child is part of a three-scene mural that greets guests as they walk through the front doors.
“Inclusion within Calgary has been kind of lacking lately,” he adds, saying “This is like the stepping stone.”
“I’m hoping that it will give everybody an inspiration and a leg up on how to just basically achieve what they wanted to do,” says Starlight.
Where literacy and light meet
Two Calgary SAIT students were among the hundreds who gazed upward at the geometrically-patterned, glass building between City Hall and Victoria Park Stampede station.
“We are in this age where people are starting to go towards computers and laptops and a lot of people just don’t read traditional books anymore and this is a place where it’s kind of encouraging,” says second-year journalism student, Rizwana Shaikh, who visited the library with her friend and classmate Megan Maher.
“I am a firm believer in education and I think that literacy is very important,” says Maher. “So having a building like this in Calgary, it just makes me proud that we are moving forward in that sense — in the educational sense.”
Calgary Transit will be free from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Nov. 3 to continue the celebration of the library’s opening. Food trucks, Indigenous dance, building tours, storytime sessions and science demonstrations will take place throughout the weekend, welcoming city goers to Calgary’s newest must-see destination.
- By Rosemary De Souza