Not Everybody Loves The New Library
Several Calgarians have shared with me concerns about the building’s functionality. Some were willing to let me use their name; others were not, (especially the architects as their professional ethics says they don’t criticize the work of other architects.) I also expect they also don’t want to jeopardize potential contracts with the City of Calgary or Canada Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC).
Architect and mother of a young toddler, Erin Joslin in her email says, “The central core is an awe-inspiring space worthy of all the accolades being given in terms of aesthetics. An initial visit is a total architectural experience, where you want to meander and experience everything it has to offer. Where the new Library falls short is when you have a purpose and its meandering circulation around the central staircase becomes a huge hinderance.” She also has concerns about how the stair railings throughout the building lacked lower bars for children, even in the children’s area.
After touring the building on another visit with Debbie Brekke, professional interior designer and mother of an adult son who is in a wheelchair, says thought “both the interior and exterior design of the entire building forces those in wheelchairs to take the long route.” The landing areas by the elevators on the upper floors are also very tight and don’t accommodate a couple of parents with strollers and a wheelchair user trying to get on or off the elevator.”
And one local architect, who I toured the building with became downright angered, by the sandwich boards directing those who needed an elevator to go to the back of the building. Given the future is transit-oriented, he was shocked more consideration wasn’t given to the connectivity between the library and the City Hall LRT station to the west. He told me, “Universal accessibility is one of the top five priorities for architects designing a building today.
How could this have been missed?” The access to the building’s front entrance is embarrassing and should never happened the 21st century!
Definitely Not Wheelchair-Friendly
Let’s take a roll on a wheelchair from the City Hall side of the LRT Station and see what it is like.
First, you have to negotiate the LRT station ramp with trees in the middle to get to the corner of 3rd St SE corner. Then, cross 3rdSt SE to the east side where there is limited access to the sidewalk ramp because a traffic signal post sits almost in the middle of it.
Next, you have to negotiate the difficult-to-open LRT gates, traverse over the LRT rails then negotiate more LRT gates before you get to the sidewalk from where you can roll your way along a cold, grey concrete wall for three quarters of a block to a small elevator lobby.
Once there, take the elevator to the second floor (aka entrance level), then go back outside to the plaza to get to the front door.
I am exhausted just writing this.
To be fair, a 125m long ramp (the length of a CFL football field) is at the main entrance. It is used by many parents with strollers and some wheelchair patrons. But if you need an elevator, your only option is to go around the block to the back door.