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Could Calgary’s Bow Break Architectural Stigma?

The bow tower

Architecture in Canada has come under fire in recent weeks for having more style than substance at best and being ‘mostly banal’ at worst. Such criticism has put a negative focus on the built environments in major cities across the country, prompting many architects to reconsider the current urban aesthetic.

The Bow Skyscraper, located in Calgary, could change the negativity surrounding Canadian architecture. Standing as the city’s tallest building, the $1.4 billion dollar, 58-storey structure has earned acclaim for its elegant aesthetic, with its architectural integrity not lost on either industry members or the public.

“It happens to be a beautiful piece of architecture, one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen,” says architecture and urban affairs columnist Christopher Hume.  “Not only is this city’s newest office tower, the Bow Building, the tallest in town; it’s also the most accomplished.”

Many would agree, with a poll undertaken by the Calgary Herald revealing that a majority of the 761 people polled rated the building’s appearance alone as 10 out of 10.

Designed by architecture great Norman Foster of Foster + Partners, the structure takes its name from its elegantly curved form. The mixed-use building was built as the headquarters of EnCana.

According to Foster, the concept behind the building was not only to make a structurally sound, functional space but to create something of an architectural icon for the Alberta city.

The bow tower

“We are thrilled to be working with an enlightened client, to realize not only a highly innovative new headquarters building, but also a civic destination for Calgary that can be a catalyst for the regeneration of the surrounding area,” said Foster.

The newly completed building includes three sky gardens, cultural and retail facilities in addition to spaces for other leisure activities and, of course, abundant office space.

The building has already earned status as a city icon, with Hume explaining that the structure, which ‘presides over downtown elegantly and effortlessly’ defines a diversion from traditional architecture, standing as an example of things to come from the city architecturally.

“For the most part, Calgary architecture is either strictly utilitarian or showy and kitsch-ridden,” Hume said. “The Bow is sophisticated and urban in equal measure.”

Office employees have already begun moving into the new building, with full tenancy expected by the end of the year.

By Emily D’Alterio
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