Taylor Family Digital Library Sunscreen

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The self-tensioning system has 52 percent open area (Cambridge)

LEED Gold-certified building protects old documents with a modern mesh design

The new Taylor Family Digital Library houses some of the University of Calgary’s prized documents—more than 800,000 architectural drawings, one million maps and aerial photographs, and thousands of print monographs are among the nine million items in the collection. The university built the library as part of its mission to become one of Canada’s top five research libraries by 2016, the year of its 50th anniversary. But the library also serves the practical goal of protecting the special documents and art collections that were relocated there from other facilities. To that end, architect Kasian Architecture Interior Design and Planning envisioned the 265,000-square-foot building enshrouded in a veil of mesh that would provide solar protection while creating a semi-transparent facade and day-lit interiors to be enjoyed by students and community members.

  • Fabricator Cambridge Architectural
  • Architect Kasian Architecture
  • Location Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  • Status Complete
  • Materials Stainless steel mesh and attachment system
  • Process Solar analysis, self-tensioning shading system design, engineering, and fabrication

“Kasian selected the stainless steel mesh used as a screening device on the exterior of the building for three primary reasons,” said Bill Chomik, the project’s principal design architect. “First, the mesh reduced the amount of solar gain into the Information Commons—a glass box intended to be the centerpiece of the library. Second, the mesh diminished glare, and third, the screen leant an interesting and beautiful dimension to the architectural and aesthetic quality of the building.”

Kasian worked with architectural mesh design, engineering, and fabrication company Cambridge Architectural to realize the screening system, which partially wraps the building atop a low-profile frame. The project team included general contractor CANA Construction and facade installer Flynn Canada, who consulted on the specification of the facade mesh.

The screening system uses 5,630 square feet of a flexible-weave stainless steel mesh that Cambridge calls Mid-Balance for its 52 percent open area. Self-tensioning attachment hardware creates a tailored appearance, concealing the mesh ends within custom-cut apertures in tubing that is then integrated into a steel bracket and structural support system. The tubing creates a slender visual reveal between panels, adding another visual element to the facade’s floating geometry.

The facade's custom self-tensioning sunscreen system conceals mesh ends in a low-profile steel tube attached to structural supports (Cambridge)

Designed in conjunction with the library building, the Taylor Quadrangle will add new landscaped community space to the Calgary campus; the university’s new High Density Library, located off the main campus, will house 60 percent of the school’s books and journals, along with archives. With a total budget of more than $200 million, the three projects were funded by philanthropists Don and Ruth Taylor and the Canadian government.

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