Allied Works Architecture (AWA) recently designed Studio Bell for the National Music Centre (NMC) of Canada, its new home and the latest cultural project. The new state-of-the-art cultural center is at once a performance hall, recording facility, broadcast studio, live music venue and museum-the first facility of its kind in North America and the first to be dedicated to music in Canada in all of its forms.
Located in Calgary, Alberta, at the site of the legendary blues club in the historic King Edward Hotel, the Studio Bell will connect visitors with Canada's rich musical history through live performances, exhibitions, and interactive education programs.
Studio Bell rises in nine, interlocking towers, clad in glazed terra cotta. Its subtly curved design references acoustic vessels, while allowing for sweeping views of the Bow River and surrounding cityscape. The project encompasses 160,000-square-feet of new construction, including a 300-seat performance hall and 22,000-square-feet of exhibition galleries. The masonry building of the "King Eddy" will be fully refurbished and integrated within the NMC's program, featuring a radio station, recording studio, space for artists-in-residence, and classrooms.
"The design for Studio Bell has been a truly collaborative process, and it has been thrilling to see our vision come to life, from conceptual designs, to groundbreaking in 2013, to initial construction," said NMC President and CEO Andrew Mosker. "When Studio Bell opens to the public next year, the NMC will become one of Canada's most significant national institutions, inspiring new generations of musicians and music lovers and catalyzing the redevelopment Calgary's East Village as a core urban district."
"In its many diverse spaces, Studio Bell echoes the variety of a musical performance," said AWA Principal Brad Cloepfil. "Uniting audience and performer, student and teacher, the building creates instances of immersion, when the visitor is transported from daily life, and moments of transition between spaces, providing an opportunity for quiet contemplation. In our designs, we try to create transformational spaces. For the National Music Centre, the buildings' nine towers are modeled by gravity and acoustics, and together create a silent and powerful instrument that will emanate music and light."
Entering Studio Bell, visitors are welcomed into a central lobby that opens upward through the building's five levels. In the lobby, interactive exhibitions and live performances provide visitors with an introduction to the building's many resources. Two helical staircases flank the lobby and fill the interstitial space between the towers. The main performance hall overlooks the lobby from the second floor, and serves as the building's programmatic and structural center. With flexible seating and a movable acoustic wall, the 4,000-square-foot, 300-seat space can be closed for more intimate performances or opened fully to the lobby and circulation spaces to fill the entire building with music.
Exhibition galleries - or "stages" - spread across Studio Bell's second, third, and fourth floors, showcasing highlights of the NMC's 2,000-plus piece collection of instruments, textiles and technology. Each stage is envisioned as a space of performance, where music is heard and experienced, and each may be customized or tuned to suit the needs of its specific collection. Designed to produce an experience more aligned with a music festival than a traditional museum, exhibition stages will explore a myriad of topics related to music's power of connection and expression, the mechanics of music and instruments, and interactives that provide visitors an opportunity to make music. These spaces will also tell stories of music in Canada - past, present and future - using NMC's collection to highlight important moments, people and inventions. Between each is a pause of space that allows the visitor to reconnect to the building and prepare for the next encounter.
Ascending to the fifth floor, visitors arrive at "The Cloud," an open space that invites reflection and offers stunning views of the interior space. The fifth floor is also home to Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame Collection. To the east, a large special exhibition space can be adapted to house traveling exhibits, workshops, and group performances. To the west, a skybridge spans 4th Avenue SE and connects back to the King Edward Hotel, binding the institution together offering sweeping views of the Bow River and the surrounding cityscape.