by Sara Costi
“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library”, Jorge Luis Borges once said. Who hasn’t encountered the charm of these wonderful places at least once in their life? In Alberta, a province in Western Canada, there is a public library that looks straight into the future: Calgary’s Central Library, inaugurated in November 2018 and designed by American-Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta in collaboration with the Canadian firm Dialog.
The building features wooden slats and beams and a concrete structure left deliberately uncovered and unfinished. The floors of the reading and multi-purpose rooms are covered with Casalgrande Padana’s 30x60 cm porcelain stoneware tiles from the Cemento collection in Grigio Rasato. These tiles were chosen for their texture and technical features, including their excellent footfall and wear resistance, durability, and easy cleaning and maintenance.
The library is located in a strategic position between Downtown and East Village and houses over 450,000 books and 30 multi-purpose rooms, including an auditorium, a café, outdoor squares, a children’s library, and a recording studio. Sixteen thousand citizens have contributed their ideas for the design of this knowledge hub for cultural and educational activities, studying, and social gathering.
Visitors are welcomed by a dynamic, triple-glazed façade, composed of a modular, hexagonal pattern and an arch clad with western red cedar from nearby British Columbia. Aggregated variations on the hexagon form familiar shapes, such as an open book or a snowflake. These visual effects continue inside the building, where sturdy wooden slats spiral up to 30 metres high, lining the perimeter of the open ellipse-shaped atrium.
The library develops on six floors. The lower floors are dedicated to social activities, whereas the higher floors house the study areas. On the top floor is the Great Reading Room, which provides a space for focused study and inspiration. The northernmost point of the library is like the bow of a ship, from where you can admire the meeting point of the two neighbourhoods and the urban impact of this building on Calgary’s community. With over half a million visitors in the first three months, Calgary’s Central Library has already become a tourist destination and has been included in The New York Times’ 52 places to visit.