Our Story

The Story

From its inception to the building’s history, the Downtown Campus has an exciting story to tell.

Brainchild of former University of Calgary President Harvey Weingarten, the campus set out to become the “intellectual and cultural centre, and meeting place of Calgary”. Its mission was to offer students new and exciting experiences and deepen the university’s engagement with the community while freeing up space on the main campus. The university wanted to significantly expand its capacity to offer students experiential learning opportunities, particularly in the area of community service learning, which connects students directly with local businesses and non-profit organizations.

“Students tell us they’re looking for a very high quality solid classroom experience coupled with experiences in experiential learning, working with community groups, social groups and the business community,” said Weingarten. “This is exactly the kind of facility they need to round out their education—to make it relevant, contemporary and useful.”

The University’s Board of Governors approved the project and site in 2009. With that, programs such as Continuing Education, Haskayne’s executive education and School of Public Policy’s professional development programs joined the campus in hopes to enhance the teaching and learning experience for students and community members.

The selection of the site was made following an extensive due diligence process that identified possible downtown locations. The 8th Avenue location was selected for several reasons, including its proximity to the LRT, the flexibility of the space, the ability for the University to create a significant store-front presence, and the timely availability of the space.

Fully funded and operated within a special funding envelope provided by the Province of Alberta, the University would lease the entire building and will control all the space in it. The building provides over 140,000 square feet of flexible space.

The Building

The building, formally known as the old medical centre, underwent an expansive facelift, complete with new mechanical and electrical systems to accommodate the University of Calgary’s Downtown Campus. The upgrades revitalized the neighbourhood and brought a new culture and vibrancy to the area.

The $40-million renovations, designed to meet LEED silver standards were integrated with the overall building envelope and structural upgrades as well as new mechanical systems consisting of central variable volume air systems, high efficiency hot water heating systems, and central chiller and cooling tower were included. The project allowed progressive demolition of the existing systems as the final design work for both base building upgrades and tenant improvements was being undertaken.

KINETIC ARTWORK by NED KAHN 

The kinetic wall conceals a parkade connected to a building that once housed a medical centre that went through a series of renovations between 1958 and 1971. The piece covers 3,250 square feet of the exterior facade of a parking structure at 8th avenue and 8th street in the downtown core with a staggering 4,080 kinetic parts that catch the wind. All of us at Heavy Industries were thrilled to work with Ned to design, build, and install the artwork.

The University of Calgary (U of C) found the location to be ideal for their new downtown campus. Part of U of C’s wish-list for their downtown location was an architecturally unique building – something in line with their branding that would connect with the downtown business community.

The building was transformed from a tired structure into one of Calgary’s more architecturally unique and modern locals. As the building was updated, it became apparent that the neighbouring parkade should be as well and Kahn was chosen to design the update based on his awe-inspiring portfolio. Although Kahn is still deciding on a formal name for the piece, what the Heavy team has nick-named “the kinetic wall” is furtively capturing the eyes of Calgarians and expanding this city’s repertoire of impressive public art simultaneously. 

The Future

Today, returning students or mature students make up most of the population, however the building is also becoming an important location for connecting the U of C with the downtown community.

It is a window for the downtown communities into the University of Calgary, and it's a window for our students to look on the downtown communities.