7 Buildings You Should Know as a Calgarian

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Historical Buildings: Calgary In William’s Eyes Part 3Historical Buildings: Calgary In William’s Eyes Part 2mC:t    2015.08.05


Top 7 Buildings You Should Know As a Calgarian!!!


The Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa…did you find yourself associating these buildings with their matching cities right away? New York! Paris! Rome! All these amazing cities house these iconic buildings, but isn’t it amazing how quick it was to be able to match in your mind without researching which city is associated with each one? Is it because they’re iconic or is it because these cities are defined by these famous architectural creations? What about this lovely City of Calgary? What buildings define our cityscape? Here are 10 buildings that every Calgarian should know:


1) The Calgary Tower



Designed by W.G. Milne and A. Dale and Associates, the Calgary Tower was completed in honour of the Canada Centennial in June of 1968. The tower was initially built as a way to highlight the city’s downtown core and since its completion there have been several changes and additions over the years to keep the structure relevant. Some changes include carillon bells in 1973 which was gifted from the Dutch Centennial Committee, a restaurant was added in 1985, and to honour the Olympic games the addition of a natural gas-fired cauldron was added to resemble the Olympic torch. One of the more unique and recent additions to the tower includes a glass floor which was installed in the observation desk in 2005 [1]. Over the years the Calgary Tower quickly became the iconic tourist spot to visit and still remains one of the top attractions that people must see when visiting the city.


2) Fort Calgary


The original pine and spruce fort was first built in 1875 by the North-West Mounted Police in an attempt to combat the American whiskey traders [4]. It was never intended to be a permanent structure but what remains of the fort has quickly become a key heritage building and it is the reason behind the city receiving the name “Calgary” [4].

3) The Grain Exchange


Designed by Hodgson and Bates and built by William Roper Hull, this six story sandstone building was completed in 1909 and opened its doors to 21 grain exchange companies to use as office space in 1910. This classic building features a series of wooden doors, bevelled windows, and was part of the sandstone building movement that occurred after the 1886 fire which burned down most of the wood framed housing [5]. Not only did it help the city to spur its economic prosperity but it was also considered one of Alberta’s tallest buildings, it still creates a strong presence within the city core [6].


 4) The Theater Junction Grand



Designed by L.R. Wardrop and built by James Lougheed, this building offered the city a great cultural gift as it provided a wide selection of performance genres including “opera, ballet, symphony concerts and movies” for Calgarians to enjoy. It quickly became the place to be and was the social, cultural and political hub of the Calgary. Until the Jubilee Auditorium was built in the 1960’s, the grand had become one of the biggest theaters in the Pacific Northwest and housed many famous stars including Fred Astaire and many others [8].


 5) The Bay Downtown



In August 18, 1913, the famous Bay downtown with its terra cotta exterior and its classic colonnade was built. Standing at a full 6-storeys, it was one of the largest buildings in the city and was even designed to allow for future expansion for up to 4 more storey’s. It was initially built because the original frame store and the subsequent two story building that housed HBC was no longer sufficient and more space was required. As a result, the new building became a symbol of the confidence that the city had in its potential prosperity in the future. The building also once housed the “Elizabeth Restaurant” which served many luxuries to patrons including pigs feet and lobster. The city had grown quickly from a settlers town to a successful frontier town, and the downtown HBC was there to grow along with it and was a symbol of the city’s growth and success[10]. Given that the city struck oil for the first time a year later only 30 miles away, it appears that that confidence in the city’s prosperity had not misplaced [9].


 6) The Barron Building


Barron building


Completed in 1951, the 11-storey Barron building designed by Jack Cawston is one of the first examples in the city of modern architecture, combining various architectural styles including “art deco, modern, and modern architecture. The Barron Building quickly became an important symbol of the city’s reputation as being the “center of Alberta’s oil industry”. The buildings offices became a draw for the “oil industry occupants” and was a central location where they came to work and do their business. This sparked the erection of several more office buildings and making the city undeniably the center of the petroleum industry [12].


7) The Bow


The bow


Designed by Foster + Partners, the 58-storey Bow building was created to become the major headquarters for an energy company. The Bow design was the result of both the “environmental and organisational analysis” and even curves in the direction of the sun in order to be able to take advantages of both the thermal and daylight benefits of the sun [15]. Plus it’s a nice bonus that the curve of the structure allows for the maximization of Mountain views for office workers! Plus, this unique building holds the record for being the tallest building in Calgary” but it also has the “largest continuous foundation concrete pour” in Canadian history [15].

A series of design decisions were made in order to maximize the efficiency of the building in both structure and performance. For example, the convex design of the Bow allows for the reduction in the amount of steel used in the overall structure as the “structural loading is minimized” and the facade allows for the inclusion of atria that “run the full height of the tower” which can act as a “climatic buffer” [15]. These buffer zones have allowed for the Bow to reduce its energy consumption by up to 30%.  As for the pleasant experiences of visitors and office workers, the vertical access to the office levels run through a series of sky gardens, not too shabby!


Needless to say, there are so many buildings in Calgary that have quickly become iconic, and so many heritage buildings that have helped shaped Calgary into becoming the city it is today. I feel like buildings give the city a sense of unique style, what’s your opinion Calgary? What style does our city portray to the rest of the world and even within our own population? We would love to hear your opinion!



Check out some other blogs involving some beautiful buildings in Calgary!

1) Historical Buildings: Calgary In William’s Eyes Part 1

2) Historical Buildings: Calgary In William’s Eyes Part 2

3) http://makecalgary.com/?p=14582

Next: Coming soon…
Previous: Calgary’s Top 5 Coffee Shops





[1]  Photo taken by Delta
[2] Photo taken by Canada.com
[3] Photo taken from Avenue
[4] Photo taken from Theater Junction

[5] Photo taken by author

[6] Photo taken by Abdallahh

[7] Photo taken from Crebnow

[8] Photo taken from here

[9] Photo taken from e-architect




[1] Our Story – History. (n.d.). Retrieved August 3, 2015, from http://www.calgarytower.com/explore-calgary/history/

[2] Our Story – Architecture. (n.d.). Retrieved August 3, 2015, from http://www.calgarytower.com/explore-calgary/architecture/

[3] OUR plans. (n.d.). Retrieved August 2, 2015, from http://www.fortcalgary.com/makehistory/1875-fort.html

[4] Fort Calgary. (n.d.). Retrieved August 2, 2015, from http://www.oldfortstrail.com/fort_calgary.php

[5] Williams, J. (2014, February 9). A Lengthy History of Calgary That Still Barely Scratches the Surface. Retrieved August 2, 2015, from http://www.avenuecalgary.com/City-Life/A-Lengthy-History-of-Calgary-That-Still-Barely-Scratches-the-Surface/

[6] Calgary Grain Exchange – Calgary, Alberta. (2013, March 21). Retrieved August 2, 2015, from http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMGMP8_Calgary_Grain_Exchange_Calgary_Alberta

[7] 1910 – Grain Exchange, Calgary, Alberta – Architecture of Calgary – Archiseek.com. (2012, August 1). Retrieved August 2, 2015, from http://archiseek.com/2012/grain-exchange-calgary-alberta/

[8] Our History. (n.d.). Retrieved August 3, 2015, from http://www.theatrejunction.com/about-us/theatre-junction-history/

[9] Hbc Heritage | Calgary. (n.d.). Retrieved August 3, 2015, from http://www.hbcheritage.ca/hbcheritage/history/places/stores/calgary

[10] Wiseman, B. (2013, September 20). How the Bay Put Calgary on the Map. Retrieved August 5, 2015, from http://calgaryisawesome.com/2013/09/20/how-the-bay-put-calgary-on-the-map/

[11] Van Rassel, J. (2014, April 1). Iconic Barron Building on Stephen Avenue to be declared historic resource. Retrieved August 5, 2015, from http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/alberta/Iconic Barron Building Stephen Avenue declared historic resource/9691465/story.html

[12] Barron Building. (n.d.). Retrieved August 5, 2015, from http://www.nationaltrustcanada.ca/issues-campaigns/top-ten-endangered/explore-past-listings/alberta/barron-building

[13] Barron Building. (n.d.). Retrieved August 5, 2015, from http://www.strategicgroup.ca/Real-Estate-Portfolio/Barron-Building.aspx

[14] Calgary’s Most Beautiful Building. (n.d.). Retrieved August 5, 2015, from http://www.the-bow.com/

[15] The Bow. (n.d.). Retrieved August 5, 2015, from http://www.fosterandpartners.com/projects/the-bow/



makeCalgary:talk provokes conversation among Calgarians about the design of our city. Catch up with us on Twitter (@makecalgarytalk), Instagram (makecalgarytalk), or Facebook.




  1. MCtalk says:

    Great post. Great photographs. Calgary does need an architectural landmark.

  2. About the Husky Tower – WG Milne never worked for A.Dale & Associates: Bill was an Architect with his own practice (WG Milne, Architect), who devised the initial concepts and plans for the Husky Tower, until it gravitated to its current site. Bill was a leading Calgary architect of mid-century modern buildings.

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