Kudos to the architects for locating the café and theatre space along the street frontage. How it will work with the Tim Horton’s across the street at Bow Valley College or the café within City Hall remains to be seen. There is a lot of activity at the intersection with the LRT already in place and given the number of visitors to the library, particularly those who do not drive, the pedestrian counts should be high.
Yet, moving farther south along 3rd to the intersection with 9th Avenue, the design, as Councillor G. Carra noted during the hearing, raises a number of questions.
|The proposed design of the open space to be located at the corner of 3rd St. and |
9th Ave., raises questions about how the space will be used and by whom. The
evening rendering raises added issues of conveying a sense of light, “eyes on
Who will use this space? Why would someone go there to sit at the back side of City Hall at a busy intersection only at certain times of the day? Until something happens on the south side of 9th, there is little to attract people there as the main lines of contact with the library will be through the centre entry leading to the 7th Street intersection.
A set of proposed steps can attract people. One of the representatives from the design firm presenting to the CPC last week mentioned the Spanish Steps in Rome. OK, this intersection certainly lacks an amenity of that scale. I was thinking more along the lines of the steps and tiered small green spaces alongside Union plaza in San Francisco and how the space functions so well for so many. Small patches of lawn where people sit at lunch on the many steps creating the transition between the different elevations. But that plaza is surrounded by activity, including the Macy’s store and it functions as a diagonal walk-through across a busy cluster of blocks in the city. Yet it does give us a hint of what could happen here in terms of activity.
Union Square is a programmed space, with a pavilion at either end, one of which is always open with a wonderful café not unlike the Boxwood restaurant in Memorial Park here in YYC that serves terrific food. Lots of tourists and locals visit the café but they also come for the art shows and other activities that always seem to be happening in Union Square.
So can we revision the south end of the new library? The Planning Commission made a motion to just that.
What can we do to create a better place? To create a destination, well programmed to attract people throughout the day and evening? Something that casts a wonderful glow across the public area as people stop or pass by on their way to the new music centre. In addition to the Boxwood restaurant here in Calgary, here are two other ideas as food for thought.
|The NYC Apple store entrance with |
transparent glass, including the stairway,
provides one of the best examples of how a
pavilion can greatly enhance and animate a
space even when nobody is there.
The first is the entry to the Apple Store in NYC. In my eye, this is one of the most transparent, dominant, iconic and welcoming structures in North America. Imagine something like this at the intersection of 9th and 3rd, how it would soften the entire intersection, particularly with the right lighting at night, the glass welcoming everyone to enter and experience whatever was happening inside.
Then there is my favourite pavilion: the Digital Water Pavilion, with walls of water constructed for the Zaragoza (Spain) World Expo in 2008. Unimaginable I fear, yet one can dream how YYC could host another iconic structure that would further support recognition of this city as an emerging leader in architecture (think the Bow and the Peace Bridge). Spain has had a bit of a monopoly on grand public structures for some time now. Designed at MIT, this is one big draw for people to learn how architecture is really about experience.
The water pavilion is a fascinating structure that highlights how a building can adapt to
the environment while providing a spectacular sensory experience that draws people. Learn
more by watching the two video links and reading about it at
The library designers have been asked to think more about how the space at the intersection can be designed to better activate what will soon be a major intersection for people. Keep this on your radar screen and be sure to participate by sending in your thoughts.