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Why Snøhetta’s amazing new library might remind you of an Apple Store

Why Snøhetta’s amazing new library might remind you of an Apple Store
[Photo: Michael Grimm]





One of the first things you notice in the new Calgary Central Library, which opened in November, is what isn’t there: a reference desk. Instead, librarians roam the soaring, four-story building, approaching patrons the way salespeople greet customers at the Apple Store. International architecture firm Snøhetta, which designed the $245 million structure with the Canadian firm Dialog, has some experience with libraries. Its design for the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, built in Egypt in 2002, became a potent symbol of democracy when, during the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, citizens united across political divides to protect the building from harm. But the Calgary project represented a different sort of challenge: to rethink the public library not as a book vault but as a vibrant community hub. This extends from its variety of spaces—including a wood-clad performance hall, a children’s climbing wall, and a teen tech zone—to the building’s downtown location directly over a light-rail station, making it accessible to people from all over the city. (Less than two months after opening, the library had already had 270,000 visits.) “We’ve designed it so that everyone feels comfortable in this place,” says Snøhetta partner Craig Dykers. Readers included, of course: The facility contains a healthy number of books and other media.

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