Something Old, Something New…Something Reused?

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EVDS 697 - Blog 2 Header Image

 Render of Telus Sky [1] and Centennial Planetarium [2]

The seventh installment in our Face Lift series, exploring the new face of our city.


mC:t    2015.07.22    


This past week, the MakeCalgary team has been hard at work bringing the Face Lift series to life. At the heart and soul of this discussion we have been looking at the way in which cities (and growing ones at that) are transforming the urban landscape and creating placemaking in various ways and at various scales. Insert into this discussion of ever-changing urban needs and the infrastructures that facilitate these interactions, the idea of preservation versus demolition. Taking stock of a city’s building inventory, what determines which building’s stay and which ones go?




In cities that are experiencing growth we often look toward the skyline, and images of towering cranes and skycrapers have become symbolic of its inhabitants cumulative aspirations as well as the signifiers of modernity and progress. Driven by the demand of the user and the economy, it comes as no surprise that we look to the development of new buildings, iconic architecture and unprecedented design as a means to express the identity of a growing city.


Cultural capital within contemporary architecture seems to place a lot of weight on the idea of iconic architecture. However, in a sea of interesting forms, façade treatments and renowned architects, lies the fact that public infrastructure is set out to create a sense of place; the forum in which public interaction and daily life unfolds. Throw into the mix, an increasing population, changes in social needs, financial feasibility and limited space, something’s got to give.


It comes as no surprise that in determining whether to demolish or preserve a building, a current building’s viability is weighed out in a plethora of ways: from operational costs, environmental sustainability, under-utilized spaces, declining performance, etc. With older buildings comes the issue of degradation in terms of the age of materials, maintenance and the overall cost to adapt to new standards of efficiency, which often lead us to believe that it may be  more cost effective to just build something new. The lifecycle (or longevity) of buildings appear to have become shorter and shorter, with the idea of building to last becoming more of an afterthought. Particularly in a culture that gives preference for the new rather than the old, building shiny new structures seems to take precedence over the preservation or adaptation of existing structures.


Blog Post 2 (Brookfield)

Located along 2 Street and 7 Avenue SW, the demolition of the Herald Building in Calgary is making way for Brookfield Place (designed by architecture firms Arney Fender Katsalidis and Dialog) which is currently under construction. [3], [4] & [5]

Blog Post 2 (Telus)

 Arts Central, located along Centre Street and 7 Avenue SW, will be demolished and replaced with the Telus Sky mixed-used office tower, designed by architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group. [6] & [7]




Let’s stop for a moment to consider what would happen if we didn’t tear anything down and we worked with the existing structures we do have. That’s where adaptive reuse fits in, which describes the “process of adapting old structures for new purposes” [8]. In the debate between demolishment and preservation, the beauty of adaptive re-use is that it considers optimizing and re-appropriating the functionality of existing under-valued structures. In this regard, adaptive reuse thus becomes a response to the changing demands required of a space and its occupants within a community. From an environmental perspective, a renovation study has shown that “adapting buildings for a new use generates less waste, uses fewer materials and probably uses less energy than demolition and rebuilding” [9]. No longer do we see these existing buildings as doomed structures or investment sinkholes, but rather we realize the latent social, economic and cultural capital that lies within.


Blog Post 2 (Planet 1)

Formerly the Calgary’s Centennial Planetarium, this now unused space is in the process of be adapted into an Art Gallery by Contemporary Calgary. [10]

Blog Post 2 (Planet 2)

Rendered image showing how the Planetarium’s former space can be adapted to be used as a gallery space. [11]

Often the focus within architecture tends to lean toward covering the creative process behind the design and creation of buildings. Albeit interesting, it is important to also recognize the duality within creation: which is destruction. While there is certainly merit to both sides of the destruction versus adaptive reuse conversation, the question remains how disposable is architecture, really?




Next: Is the East Village Redevelopment Socially Inclusive?
Previous: New or Renew?


[1] “Telus Sky Render”. Telus Sky Website Gallery. Accessed July 20, 2015.
[2] “Centennial Planetarium”. Downtown West Community Association. Accessed July 20, 2015.
[3] “Herald Building”. Paul Saunier Website. Accessed July 21, 2015.

[4] “Demolition Rubble”. Paul Saunier Website. Accessed July 21, 2015.

[5] “Brookfield Place Render”. Brookfield Office Properties Website . Accessed July 21, 2015.

[6] “Arts Central”. Calgary Herald Website . Accessed July 21, 2015.

[7] “Telus Sky Render”. Telus Sky Website Gallery. Accessed July 20, 2015.

[8] “Adaptive Reuse”. Adaptive Reuse | Contemporary Metamophoses. Accessed July 20, 2015.

[9] Bullen, Peter A. & Love, Peter E.D,. “The rhetoric of adaptive reuse or reality of demolition”. Perth: Elsevier, 2009

[10] “Historic Image of Centennial Planetarium interior space”. Downtown West Community Association. Accessed July 20, 2015.

[11] “Rendered interior image of new gallery space”. Downtown West Community Association. Accessed July 20, 2015.


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