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Calgary Central Library

Calgary Central Library
New Calgary Central Library logo.svg
Calgary Central Library Render.jpg
Alternative namesNew Central Library
General information
TypePublic library
Location800 3 Street SE
Calgary, Alberta
Coordinates51°02′43″N 114°03′18″W / 51.0453°N 114.0549°W / 51.0453; -114.0549
Construction started2013
CompletedNovember 1, 2018
Cost$245 million
OwnerCalgary Public Library
Technical details
Floor count4
Floor area240,000 sq ft (22,000 m2)
Design and construction
Architecture firmSnøhetta
Structural engineerEntuitive
Services engineerSMP Engineering

The Calgary Central Library, also known as the Calgary New Central Library (NCL), is a public library in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and the flagship branch of the Calgary Public Library. It is located in the Downtown East Village neighborhood and opened on November 1, 2018, replacing the existing central branch in Downtown Calgary.

The four-storey building cost $245 million to construct and was designed by American-Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta and Canadian firm DIALOG after the two firms' joint bid won a design competition in 2013. Their design features an oval-like form and an interior with a large central atrium with a skylight. The building is elevated one floor above street level to accommodate a light rail trackway below as well as a public plaza.

Planning for a new library began in 2004 and was finalized in 2011. Construction began in 2013 with the encapsulation of an existing CTrain light rail tunnel portal; above-ground construction of the library itself began in September 2015.


The Central Library is located along 3rd Street SE between 7th and 9th avenues in the Downtown East Village neighborhood, adjacent to the Calgary Municipal Building.[1] The CTrain City Hall station is located to the west of the library's northwest corner.[2]

Planning and funding

Planning for a new central library branch in Downtown Calgary, to replace an older building used since 1964, began in 2004. The city of Calgary, working with the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation, proposed a site adjacent to the city hall in the Downtown East Village neighborhood. The Calgary City Council approved the project in 2011, providing $40 million for its construction.[3] Rejected sites included the current library in Downtown, the former headquarters of the Calgary Board of Education, the Olympic Plaza, and the former Telus World of Science centre in the Downtown West End.[4]

Of the $245 million budgeted for the library project, $175 million was contributed by the city government and $70 million came from the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation, a city-owned real estate developer.[5] The largest private donation for the project, via the Calgary Public Library Foundation, was a $1.5 million contribution from Nexen, a Calgary-based oil company and subsidiary to the Chinese state-run CNOOC, for the naming rights to a high-tech learning centre.[6]

Design and amenities

Render of the Calgary Central Library from the east

The library's design was unveiled to the public in September 2014 by architects Snøhetta and DIALOG, who won a design competition in 2013. The entire building is oval-shaped and is elevated one floor above street level to cover a CTrain light rail tunnel and an open plaza, included with the intention of connecting Downtown East Village to downtown. The entrance is framed by wood-clad arches inspired by the shape of arched clouds made by Chinook winds in Alberta. Landscaping around the library and adjoining plaza consists of terracing inspired by the foothills of the Canadian Rockies.[7]

The exterior is wrapped in a textured façade, with translucent fritted glass panels used to shield private study areas and clear glass to make public areas viewable from the outside.[7][8]

The 240,000-square-foot (22,000 m2) interior centres around a four-storey central atrium topped by a skylight. The lower floors contain the library's meeting spaces and activity centres, while the upper floors feature book stacks with space for 450,000 titles and a reading room. At street level, one floor below the main lobby, is a 340-seat theatre, conference rooms, and small café.[1][9]

The entire library features several environmentally friendly features, such as triple-pane windows to save energy on climate control and finishings made of low volatile organic compound materials.[10]

One notable absence from the new library is a connection to the +15 skybridge system that spans the central business district of Calgary, the nearest location of which is inside the Calgary Municipal Building.[1] A connection was considered, but ultimately rejected because of conflicts with the city hall's hours of operation as well as low predicted traffic.[2]

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi described the library as a "new icon for the city" at the public unveiling of the final design in 2014.[11]

Public art for the library was selected in 2017, with one percent of the project budget dedicated to public art.[12]

Construction and opening

The first stage of construction was the $25 million encapsulation of a 135-metre (443 ft) long section of light rail used by the CTrain Red Line, which emerges from a tunnel on the proposed site.[13] The light rail encapsulation began in May 2014 and was completed in September 2015, allowing for vertical construction of the library to begin.[14][15]

The Central Library was opened to the public on November 1, 2018, with astronaut Chris Hadfield dedicating the building.[16] In the first four days that the library was opened to the public, a total of 52,000 people visited as part of the opening ceremonies.[17] The library was praised for its design and its potential impact on Calgary's image amid a planned bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics.[18]


  1. ^ a b c Markusoff, Jason (September 3, 2014). "Design for 'stunning' new central library unveiled". Calgary Herald. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "New downtown library will not get Plus 15 link to City Hall". CBC News. July 15, 2014. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  3. ^ "New library to be built in East Village". CBC News. July 26, 2011. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  4. ^ Markusoff, Jason (July 20, 2011). "Where the library isn't going". Calgary Herald. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  5. ^ "Project Team and Partners". YYC New Central Library. Calgary Municipal Land Corporation. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  6. ^ Markusoff, Jason (September 12, 2013). "Chinese state-owned CNOOC makes largest-ever donation to Calgary Public Library". Calgary Herald. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  7. ^ a b "Calgary's New Central Library and Library Plaza". Snøhetta. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  8. ^ Rosenfield, Karissa (September 24, 2014). "Snøhetta Unveils Final Design for Calgary's New Central Library". ArchDaily. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  9. ^ "Experience the NCL". YYC New Central Library. Calgary Municipal Land Corporation. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  10. ^ "New Central Library Newsletter: Fall 2015" (PDF). Calgary Municipal Land Corporation. 2015. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  11. ^ "Calgary's new central library to be an icon for the city, says Nenshi". CBC News. September 23, 2014. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  12. ^ "Project". YYC New Central Library. Calgary Municipal Land Corporation. Archived from the original on May 18, 2016. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  13. ^ "Calgary LRT line to be enclosed for central library construction". CBC News. May 7, 2014. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  14. ^ "Calgary's new central library will start to rise". CBC News. September 30, 2015. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  15. ^ "New Central Library". Calgary Municipal Land Corporation. Retrieved May 30, 2016.
  16. ^ Ferguson, Eva (November 1, 2018). "'Spectacular': A look inside Calgary's New Central Library on opening day". Calgary Herald. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
  17. ^ Pike, Helen (November 7, 2018). "Calgary's 'just amazing' Central Library attracts more than 50,000 visitors in 4 days". CBC News. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  18. ^ Kaufmann, Bill (November 1, 2018). "'We'll come here regularly': New Central Library makes grand first impression on visitors". Calgary Herald. Retrieved November 1, 2018.

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