National Music Centre Wins 2022 Prairie Design Award of Excellence
National Music Centre
Of all the spaces in the city of Calgary, few are more iconic than Studio Bell National Music Centre (NMC). The NMC is the gateway to the city’s East Village ― delicately unifying the past and future.
The stunning five-story building is equal parts museum, performance venue, classroom, and studio. The architecture’s unique design stretches up and over the street, where two towers connect via a 60-foot-high thoroughfare. At the street level, musicians and guests can celebrate the reconstruction of the legendary King Edward Hotel (locally known as the King Eddy), which now serves as a venue and restaurant, while also offering spaces for artists in residence.
The NMC is the first facility of its kind in North America, and working together as associate architects with Allied Works, the prime Design Architect, we (the architectural team), wanted to set the bar high. This project is a shining example of how joining forces can create an exemplary final design.
We were driven by purpose. We weren’t involved because we needed a project, we were involved because we wanted to help see this thing through, because it’s an important building for our community.”
We were brought into the project to support Allied Works which had finished planning much of the building’s primary space and exterior. We were asked to assist Allied Works with interior design, architecture, and project management, including permitting.
With much to consider ― from conceptualization to designing support spaces, to preserving history ― our Arts & Culture Team was chosen, not only because many of us are musicians, but also because of our reliable and collaborative approach to design.
We took the lead on the restoration and rejuvenation of the historic King Edward Hotel ― originally established in 1905. With many concerns about the former hotel’s interior and foundation, we closely engaged with the municipal government to attain necessary permits and resolve complex building code issues.
The integrity of the building’s exterior was another important challenge. Since both the outside and inside walls were to be covered in over 200,000 terra cotta tiles, we needed to ensure they could withstand the city’s harsh winters. We assisted Allied Works in resolving the technical challenges associated with this unique building envelope, and facilitated studies, worked with specialists, and ran experimental tests which exposed the tiles to several harsh climates. Now, the showstopping tiles delicately curve around the walls, and the space between them allows sound to resonate throughout the building.
The vision our client and partners had was exceptionally unique from legal, technical, and practical perspectives. A steering committee of multiple stakeholders was tasked to lead the charge.
Our priority was to ensure we worked as collaboratively, smartly, and efficiently as possible to deliver a beautiful building for Calgary. We considered the client’s desired acoustics, angles, and dynamic uses to ensure the striking flow of the building design and its multiple elements could be expressed architecturally.
Since the project was collaborative, with multiple design teams at the table using multiple tools, we needed to ensure any technical drawing software was consistent across the board. Our team helped merge design plans together into one cohesive package.
Kasian made an unequivocal commitment to help us make this work. They cared and we knew it.”
President and CEO of National Music Centre
As envisioned by Allied Works, the design of the building is holistically inspired by Canada’s landscape and this is reflected throughout the exterior design. The curvature of the building is akin to Alberta’s rolling foothills, and the windows reflect the Rocky Mountains.
The restoration of the King Eddy required our team to carefully deconstruct the hotel brick-by-brick and rebuild its foundation. Then, like the classic story of ‘Humpty Dumpty’, we reassembled it with the original bricks and added some modern improvements.
The National Music Centre achieved a LEED Silver standard of design, has been extensively published, and won the 2022 Prairie Design Award of Excellence.
Some might argue a project of this magnitude ― one that celebrates Canadian music and is endorsed by the federal government ― would normally be in a larger city. But, Calgary was chosen to give musical artists a place to call home. And the NMC has raised the bar for the quality of architecture throughout the city.
The National Music Centre elevates the profile of Canadian music and has become a hub for musicians in Alberta, attracting new artists to its spaces to write, compose, record, and exhibit their work. At the same time, the architecture has become a dynamic contributor to the development of the city’s culture and community pride.
Photo Credits: Jeremy Bittermann.
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