Photo: Mount Royal University

Top Projects 2015: Taylor Centre For The Performing Arts

Project of the Year 

Institutional—Over $50 Million

Skill and careful planning are undoubtedly crucial to building a top project, but patience may be the defining virtue of the 2015 Project of the Year, the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts at Mount Royal University. First conceived back in 1999, the project broke ground in 2011, and construction continued until it was completed—on schedule and on budget, it should be note—earlier this year. In August, the curtain officially rose on the first new performance hall in Calgary in three decades.

Offering a dash of country in the city, the Taylor Centre has been designed to resemble a barn—a nod to the university’s original campus building, which was nicknamed “The Barn” by staff and students. Aged metal, grey silt and copper mark the centre’s exterior, while skylights and glass walls help flood the interior with natural light. Adding to the warm, inviting atmosphere are the cherry-wood walls used throughout the inside of the building.

Much of the facility’s 95,000 square feet of space will be occupied by the 6,000-plus students that are part of the university’s conservatory. Box-in-box construction was used to prevent sound bleeding between the centre’s 43 practice studios. Additionally, there are six rehearsal halls for ensembles, a five-classroom early childhood instructional suite, a percussion room and a recording studio.

The centrepiece of the project is undoubtedly the Bella Concert Hall, which is crowned with a wood-panelled, acoustically engineered ceiling shaped like an Alberta wildrose. The 787-seat theatre is Calgary’s only mid-sized performance venue, with a stage large enough to accommodate a 90-piece orchestra.

Ensuring pristine sound—without breaking the budget—was the chief challenge in designing and building this space. Oversized ductwork will help reduce background noise, while the computer-controlled acoustical system will ensure the venue is flexible enough to host a variety of events. In some cases, the systems and equipment used are so new that the team didn’t even have samples to test out beforehand.

With their strict sound requirements, performance spaces are often challenging projects, but the Taylor Centre’s design posed some interesting challenges for the team. No angle in the building is the same, and the complex structure required up to six cranes on site to erect the steel components. A more traditional design would typically require that the steel be built from the bottom up, but the centre had to be built from the top down. Concrete forms also had to be rebuilt after each pour to accommodate the unique shape of the structure.

In fact, the design required the entire team to work closely together—in harmony, you could say. Contractor CANA Management was involved in the early pre-construction stages to help provide critical input on budgeting and planning, and key stakeholders like the university, the conservatory and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra helped collaborate on the design to ensure the building remained affordable while meeting their needs.

Technology was crucial to bringing together the various disciplines. Business information modelling was used to coordinate the complex mechanical, electrical and plumbing components of the project and to detect potential clashes. At the same time, steel and concrete supplies were confirmed using 3-D modelling, which helped cut down on wasted materials during installation.

The facility has been built to LEED Gold standards. Low-flow fixtures have been installed, and rainwater will be collected on the roof for reuse in washrooms and in the building’s cooling tower. Features like chilled beams and an outdoor air system using total enthalpy heat recovery will help ensure the building operates efficiently throughout its lifespan.

The team also made an effort to keep the construction process clean and green. There was an emphasis on using local and recycled materials where possible, and the project recycled much of its waste, including concrete, asphalt, wood, paper, cardboard, drywall and metal. Overall, 1,400 tons of waste was diverted from landfills—a rate of 76.5 per cent.

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