The Canadian architect creates a dynamic city landmark that majors in sustainability, connectivity, and a playful informality. Centennial Place is a new landmark for the city of Calgary, Alberta. Located at the northwest of the downtown city core, the development’s two striking towers offer a new architectural standard on multiple levels. Centennial Place represents the very best in sustainable office design. It achieves a level of connectivity with the city not previously seen in Calgary, linking to both the existing commercial infrastructure and, eventually, to the adjacent planned residential neighbourhoods. Centennial Place’s highly articulated design creates a beacon, an architectural focal point, amidst a city noted for its tall buildings and dense urban environment.
Designed by WZMH Architects for long-time client Oxford Properties, Centennial Place is the largest commercial LEED Gold development in Canada. The complex’s two towers – one of 40 storeys and the other 24 storeys – provide 1,045,000 sqft (97,080 sqm) of office space, clad in a high performance glazed façade that minimizes solar ingress and heat gain. Rainwater collection, grey water re-use for irrigation , high efficiency motors in the mechanical plant and occupancy sensors are active elements of a design that also utilises the building’s structural form to create the best internal environments while minimizing energy requirements.
But Centennial Place does not rely only on its sustainability credentials to attract tenants. The complex’s design, described by WZMH as ‘dynamic informality’, demarcates it from other office towers in the city. The two towers are set at right angles to each other, challenging the regimented convention of this size of development.
The external façades of both buildings are envisioned by the architect as an exercise in patternmaking; the vertical mullions being varied in size and depth to create excitement and animation on the immense glazed surface planes of the facades. Additionally, one face of each tower leans inwards as it rises to create ‘breathing space’ between the two buildings, and, shooting from ground to tip is a spire, which terminates above the highest floor with an illuminated beacon: a focal point from both within and beyond the city limits.
Perhaps the most important aspect of Centennial Place is its ability to connect with the city on multiple levels. A two storey high pedestrian concourse runs between the buildings, linking to Calgary’s unique +15 elevated walkway. From this 30 foot high thoroughfare building occupants and visitors can look back into the sleek lobbies of the office towers or dine at a new food court, situated beneath a dramatic elliptical skylight.
At grade, a level so often neglected in Calgary, WZMH has connected Centennial Place with the street via a row of retail outlets and café/restaurants, creating what will become a bustling new neighbourhood when the planned adjacent residential district is completed in the near future. This invigoration of the city’s sidewalk culture marks its transformation from commercial to residential neighbourhood and a new design paradigm for the public realm in Calgary.
Centennial Place marks the latest addition in an architectural history that has seen WZMH design some of Calgary’s most outstanding and recognizable buildings. The practice first worked in the city in the 1970s, designing Bow Valley Square. WZMH went on to design such landmarks as the Petro-Canada Centre (now Suncor Energy Centre), Canterra Tower and the Ernst & Young Tower, all of which are features of the city’s high rise skyline.
Centennial Place is a 21st century design for a city at the forefront of Western Canada’s emergence as a signiificant economic engine for Canada as a counterpoint to the more traditional industrial based economies in Eastern Canada.
Official Name of Project: Centennial Place
Location: 520 – 3rd Avenue SW, Calgary, Alberta, T2P 4L4 (East Tower)
250 – 5th Street SW, Calgary, Alberta, T2P 1N8
Client: Oxford Properties Group
Architect: WZMH Architects
Design Team: WZMH Architects
David Rich, Design Principal
Jay Bigelow, Executive Principal
Tom Schloessin, Project Architect
Roland Brunner, Design Architect
Bill Brown, Job Captain
Joint Venture / Associate Architect: Gibbs Gage Architects
Structural Engineer: Read Jones Christoffersen Consulting Engineers
Mechanical Engineer: Smith + Andersen Consulting Engineering
Emans, Smith, Andersen Engineering Ltd.
Electrical Engineer: Mulvey + Banani International (Alberta) Inc.
Civil Engineer: Kellam Berg Engineering Surveys Ltd.
LEED Consultant: Enermodal Engineering (a member of MMM Group Limited)
Commissioning Agent: CFMS Consulting Inc.
Landscape Architects: Carson McCulloch Associates Ltd.
Contractor: PCL Constructors Canada Inc.
Lighting Design: Gabriel Mackinnon
Project End Date: April 2010