July 15, 2024

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Design unveiled for Calgary’s Arts Commons Transformation expansion

3 min read
An exterior daytime rendering shows the Arts Commons Transformation three-level, 162,000 sq. ft.expansion building. (Rendering: CMLC)

After two years of planning and design work, Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) and its partners at Arts Commons and The City of Calgary have revealed the architectural design for the Arts Commons Transformation expansion.

This building, whose design is led by Toronto’s KPMB Architects, Calgary’s Hindle Architects, and Arizona- and Calgary-based Tawaw Architecture Collective, will feature a new 1,000-seat theatre and 200-seat studio theatre, which marks a significant step forward in the delivery of the largest arts-focused infrastructure project currently underway in the country.

“The transformation of the Arts Commons campus is a more than half-billion-dollar investment in Calgary’s arts and cultural future,” says Kate Thompson, president and CEO of CMLC, development manager for the expansion and modernization of Calgary’s premier performing arts centre. “Together with our partners at The City of Calgary and Arts Commons, CMLC has been working with the prime design team since early 2022 to advance the concept and schematic designs for this extraordinary city-building project. Today we’re ecstatic to reach a monumental milestone: the public unveiling of the new building’s design.”

 “Through their collective experience, local knowledge and proven expertise in major arts and theatre projects, the team has delivered a truly inspiring design—a spectacular three-level building with 162,000 sq ft of modern features and amenities that will elevate Calgary’s growing arts community.”

A nighttime rendering of the ACT expansion’s lobby. (Rendering: CMLC)


“At the heart of the Arts Commons Transformation project is an intention to create a new performing arts space that is ‘of and for Calgary’– a place where everyone is welcome,” said Kevin Bridgman, partner at KPMB, representing the prime design team. “This simple yet powerful idea inspired our design for a purpose-built facility that reflects the spirit of the community it serves, is thoughtfully connected to its history and culture, and is designed with respect for its surroundings.

“The expansion building’s curved form, exterior cladding, and interior finishes are inspired by Alberta’s dramatic landscapes and the regional lodge typologies,” said Bridgman. “With a naturally lit, fully transparent ground floor, the design team placed importance on the southeast corner where a gathering circle with a skylight provides space that welcomes Calgarians and encourages visitors to come together and share stories.”

The expansion will boost Arts Commons’ seating capacity by a total of 45 per cent; space the city needs to meet demand for arts and culture and to facilitate the aspirations of its arts community.

The expansion’s design was supported by specialists in theatre planning and acoustic design to ensure the new theatre spaces exceed best-in-class technical requirements. The 1,000-seat theatre has the capacity to alter the floor layout to various configurations, and the 200-seat studio theatre’s design will enable multiple configurations with retractable and demountable platform seating and an opening out to the plaza.

Additionally, the prime design team also included an accessibility consultant to ensure the spaces are inclusive and accessible for all. 

The $660 million project includes the Arts Commons expansion and modernization, the transformation of Olympic Plaza, and a $50M Arts Commons endowment. The $270M expansion of Arts Commons is fully funded by The City of Calgary and CMLC’s Community Revitalization Levy.

The modernization, which is still in design stages, has an anticipated project cost of $270 million and will require additional funding prior to construction beginning.

An exterior nighttime rendering shows the Arts Commons Tranformation expansion’s curved form, exterior cladding, and interior finishes inspired by Alberta’s dramatic landscapes and the regional lodge typologies. (Rendering: CMLC)

The adjacent Olympic Plaza Transformation is still in conceptual design and has an anticipated project cost of $70 million, of which $40 million is already committed through The City’s 2023-2026 budget for downtown revitalization.

With the recent announcement from the Government of Alberta of an additional allocation of $103 million toward the overall campus vision, the project is getting closer to achieving its funding objectives.

Supported by project manager Colliers and construction manager EllisDon, construction on the expansion is expected to begin in late 2024, and the building is expected to open in Arts Commons’ 2028/2029 season.

The City of Calgary will relocate the Famous Five sculpture and Parks Depot as the expansion site is prepared for construction through 2024. To facilitate construction on both the Arts Commons expansion and the Olympic Plaza Transformation, events and programming in Olympic Plaza will also be paused at the end of 2024.


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