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Calgary, Alberta, Canada
This pioneering office tower takes its name both from its unusual form and from the nearby Bow River. Headquarters for two major energy companies, the 58-story building was the first phase of an ambitious plan to revitalise Calgary’s Downtown East Village.
With its graceful crescent shape, The Bow is designed to reduce energy consumption and promote a sense of community inside and out. Even the configuration of its Otis® lifts, more typical of a much taller building, is calculated to foster interaction among The Bow’s tenants.
The office tower faces south, curving toward the sun to take advantage of the natural light and heat. The resulting bow maximises the amount of internal space that has an unimpeded view of the Rocky Mountains.
Where the building curves inward, the glazed façade is pulled forward to create an atrium that runs the full height of the tower. The atrium acts as a climatic buffer zone, helping to insulate the building.
The architects estimate this design feature reduces energy consumption by approximately 30 percent. The solar heat collected in the atrium is redistributed, in winter by means of extraction, in summer using heat exchange.
To foster a sense of community, the architects created three sky gardens that project into the atrium at floors 24, 42 and 54. The sky gardens serve as common spaces and feature trees, seating areas and meeting rooms.
The gardens also function as lobbies. People entering the building take express lifts to one of the sky gardens, where they then take a local lift to their floor.
This combination of lift strategy and the incorporation of green spaces encourages social interaction throughout the building.
Outside, the crescent shape creates a large civic space at the front of the building, where it curves inward. The aerodynamic shape significantly reduces exterior wind resistance, downdrafts and urban wind tunnels, creating a comfortable environment for the people congregating there.
People entering the building’s plaza are greeted by Wonderland, the head of a young girl, 12 metres high and rendered in white wire. Created by the Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, the enigmatic girl gazes serenely at the comings and goings of the city.
Two door-sized openings enable visitors to enter the girl’s head – and view the world from her perspective. “I believe the architecture of our bodies is the palace for our dreams," says Plensa.
Central Calgary is crisscrossed by a network of enclosed walkways, created to protect pedestrians from harsh winter weather. The Bow is connected to three of these routes, linking it to the wider community. The second floor is open to the public and includes shops and cafes.
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