Calgary’s new Central Library has just opened its doors to the public — and it’s a thing of elegant, energy-efficient beauty. International architecture firm Snøhetta teamed up with North America-based multidisciplinary design firm DIALOG to create the new main branch of the Calgary Public Library, one of the largest library systems on the continent. Wrapped in a dynamic, triple-glazed facade overlaid in an intricate, hexagonal pattern, the eye-catching library provides 240,000 square feet of expanded facilities in a contemporary and light-filled environment.

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white hexagonal patterned facade of a building

Located in downtown Calgary and elevated above the Light Rail Transit Line, the $245 million CAD Calgary Central Library is the city’s largest public investment since the 1988 Olympics. Opened on Nov. 1, 2018, the library is expected to welcome over twice as many annual visitors and offer a strengthened role as a public gathering space with new areas dedicated to social interaction and exchange as well as sufficient spaces for studying and learning.

wood-lined entrance to Calgary Public Library

wooden walkways in a library

The outdoor landscape has also been designed to facilitate public gatherings with outdoor amphitheaters and an entry plaza that unites the Downtown and East Village, two neighborhoods previously split by the Light Rail Transit Line. The outdoor planting plan references Calgary’s mountains and prairies with a palette of native flora. The crystalline geometry of the building facade dramatically stands out from the urban fabric while fritted glass cutouts provide views into the building from afar.

people reading in a wood-lined room

people reading or working on computers and wooden tables

“From these shapes emerge familiar forms: parts of the pattern might resemble an open book, snowflake-like linework or interlocking houses, anchoring the ideas of the collective and community,” the firm explained. “Most importantly, the entire building volume is enclosed in the same pattern, allowing all sides to function as the ‘front’ of the building. This visual vocabulary continues inside, expressed in the design of CPL’s new visual identity and wayfinding signage in the building, unifying the library’s goals of inclusivity.”

Related: Snøhetta designs an energy-positive data center to fight climate change

people resting on staircase

colorful playroom in a library

Inside, the library is spread out across six floors and lined with wood throughout. The floors are organized “on a spectrum of ‘fun’ to ‘serious’” with the more active programming, like the Children’s Library, placed on the lower floors and the quiet study areas and jewel box-like Great Reading Room on the upper floors.

+ Snøhetta


Photography by Michael Grimm via Snøhetta

room with patterned windows and green and gray furnishings