Cloepfil Strikes a Chord

Cloepfil Strikes a Chord

Allied Works has designed a new music center in Calgary that wraps around the King Eddy hotel, one of the city’s oldest musical institutions.
Courtesy Cantos Foundation

A small hotel in Calgary that was once a major center of the city’s jazz scene is about to be transformed into one of Canada’s major cultural institutions with the help of Allied Works Architecture. Last week, Brad Cloepfil’s Portland-based firm beat out four notable competitors to be named designers of the Cantos Music Foundation’s new National Music Center. The $75 million, 80,000 square-foot complex will include an education research center, a museum, a collection of instruments and memorabilia, recording studios, a radio station, and a live music venue.

The interior of the main building is made up of discrete volumes, which Cloepfil calls "resonant vessels," connected by bridges.

The concept from Allied Works truly captured the heart and soul of this project,” Andrew Mosker, executive director of the Cantos Music Foundation, said in a statement. “Brad and his team will give us an innovative building that fits with Calgary, Alberta, the West and is symbolic of something that is truly uniquely Canadian.”

Allied Works prevailed over Jean Nouvel, Diller Scofido + Renfro, SPF:architects, and Saucier + Perrotte, the lone Candian firm competing for the project.

The complex will be made up of eight 96-foot-tall towers, each perforated with elliptical voids meant to engage the raw and open landscapes of Canada, Cloepfil explained in an interview. Copper and wood will dominate the interior, used to bounce light and sound and to provide warmth to the space. The lobby will be dominated by an informal amphitheater, while a performance space will be located on the floor above. This acoustical black box can be closed for an intimate performance or open for sound to float through the hallways.

A central stairway serves as the transition to individual galleries on the upper floors. Each gallery will be configured for acoustical separation and customization. Windows, clerestories, and the voids are meant to provide visual connections to the landscape and the city. Cloepfil sought this intensive layering of space as a relation to the tones of a musical composition. “Each tower has a different quality that can be specifically tuned and designed to an experience,” he said.

The "vessels" have been carved out to resemble the surrounding mountains and Canada’s rugged beauty as a whole.

The main building will be connected by a skybridge to the historic King Eddy Hotel, which once was a hotbed of Jazz music in the city. Allied Works will wrap the hotel with more of its “resonant vessels,” expanding the space into a new music venue. Construction on that phase is expected to be completed by 2012, with the rest of the complex finished the following year. Allied Works will be working with local architectural firm BKDI.

“It’s not about image or form but a quality and spirit,” Cloepfil said. “It’s grounded in the nature of the institution and site."