I left Calgary in 2008 to work, live and learn in Toronto. When I returned in 2012 with my degree in interior design, I could not believe my eyes. In just four  years, it seemed, Calgary had been transformed from lifeless to lively. Its tremendous growth has resulted in an increasingly vibrant metropolis that is brimming with award-winning restaurants, trendy coffee shops and packed bars. But what has interested me most about Calgary’s metamorphosis is the city’s development in the fields of art, architecture, urban planning and design. While such cities as Dubai and Shanghai sit on the international forefront for design, I think Calgary, though more regulated by planning policies and finances, is gaining attention as a major architectural destination. It has become a city to be seen. Going green The city is leading the way, too, in environmentally sustainable development, as a number of Calgary buildings have been LEED– (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified.image via calgarycitycentre.cA

Currently under construction, the new Calgary City Centre was designed to achieve LEED Platinum certification through its indoor air quality and low energy usage. The new Eighth Avenue Place buildings, once home to Calgary’s historic Penny Lane Mall, have been pre-certified LEED Platinum, the highest level of certification.   Eighth Ave.Place image via gibbsgage.com

Acting as visual and functional focal points for the city, the Eighth Ave Place skyscrapers, with their angled glass walls, respond to the weather by reflecting light. The Bow building, completed in 2012, was built not only to respond to wind conditions, which allows for economizing on heating and ventilation costs, but also to reflect the Rocky Mountains and Calgary’s changing skies off its glass façade. Bridging design The city’s growth in infrastructure includes bridges designed to connect Calgary residents. The Peace Bridge, opened on Memorial Drive in 2012, was designed by Santiago Calatrava and built without piers to minimize its ecological footprint. The award-winning design is unique and widely acknowledged as one of Calgary’s best uses of public space. More than 6,000 pedestrians use the bridge daily.

The Peace Bridge image via calgarycitynews.com

Another bridge currently under construction is the St. Patrick’s Island Bridge, which will connect Calgary’s East Village to St. Patrick’s Island. The bridge, designed to look like a skipping stone, will, like the Peace Bridge and the historic Centre Street Bridge, create paths of foot travel across the Bow River.On a global scale, Calgary has joined the ranks of London, Chicago, Dubai, and Tokyo by commissioning a sculpture by world-renowned artist, Jaume Plensa. The Wonderland Sculpture, unveiled in 2013 in front of The Bow building, was created to inspire and engage Calgary residents. Adding to the international stature, DIALOG and Snøhetta — an architecture and interior design office based in Norway and New York City — has also been selected to design the new Central Library in Calgary’s East Village. This distinguished team is sure to boost the city’s reputation internationally. Calgary is a city that’s coming up. In the past year, its population has grown by nearly 30,000 people. Calgarians were united, working together after the 2013 Alberta floods, and our skyline and urban plan continued to grow in  a positive reflection of a youthful and vibrant city. In the past year, Calgary restaurants have also appeared on the Food Network; international designers continue to be interested in having their work showcased here; and people from all around the world continue to attend the Calgary Stampede. This is a city full of spirit and energy, realizing its place as a Canadian destination. I continue to watch the city of Calgary grow and thrive, particularly in the field of design, and I look forward to a prosperous and exciting 2014.   Paige Johnston is a graduate of the Ryerson School of Design who helped to expand LUX Design — a successful Toronto-based interior design firm — to the city of Calgary. She is now working as LUX Design’s lead interior designer in Calgary.     ByPaige Johnston On January 3, 2014


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