I’d heard it was award-winning and had an inkling it would become an iconic part of Calgary’s skyline, but it wasn’t until I toured Studio Bell that I really got it.
Studio Bell, a $191-million project set to open this summer in East Village, will be home to the National Music Centre as well as a stunning 300-seat performance space, three recording studio spaces, a new CKUA radio station, an education centre and classrooms, a Cafe Rosso coffee shop and the artfully restored King Eddy Hotel.
East Village residents and anyone who commutes past the massive 85%-complete Studio Bell will have noticed the glazed terra cotta tiles that cover the curvaceous exterior of the building. Some of the tiles being gold-hued and others are platinum, which means when the sunlight reflecting off the building changes, so too does the appearance of it. On my tour through Studio Bell in mid-January, I learned that dynamic nature continues inside the building. The terra cotta tiles cover the walls in the lobby but it doesn’t feel the least bit dark with the “Enormadome” skylight illuminating the space.
There’s hardly a straight wall in sight inside Studio Bell. Architect Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture was inspired in his design by the resonant chambers of instruments—think the pipes of an organ or the belly of a cello. Imagine exploring through the building later this year letting your ears be your guide.
Despite scaffolding still up throughout the building and more than 300 tradespeople working inside, Studio Bell is already exciting.
The performance space, for example, is striking. Hanging from the ceiling are hundreds of metal pipe-like decorations invoking images of HooDoos and rolling foothills. One of our tour guides mentioned there are already Calgarians clamouring to book the space for a wedding. Smart people.
Another spot on the tour where I had to stop and catch my breath (and hang onto my hard hat) was the Cloud lounge on the fifth floor. You can catch a glimpse of the space in this clip.
The Cloud lounge is a gorgeous sort of multi-purpose space where people touring Studio Bell might end up at the end of their tour. You can look down to the floors below or up to the Enormadome and in the future there would be items from the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame Collection on the same floor.
Studio Bell is divided in two main structures with the Skybridge connecting each side. The Skybridge is like a +15, only it’s +65 and it will be outfitted with a ridiculously cool and smart permanent public art installation. “Solar Drones” by Patrick Marold already blows my mind and it hasn’t even been installed yet. Learn more and hear a sample of what it’ll sound like on NMC’s blog.
On the other end of the Skybridge is where we find the the non-public, applied side of NMC’s new facility. It’s where Artists in Residence will record music and where students will learn about how music connects to curriculum topics in classrooms converted from former hotel room space.
Here's a tidbit that history fans may enjoy: these bricks on the outside of the King Eddy.
When the hotel was being refurbished for this project, all the bricks were removed, carefully cleaned and kept track of so that when it was rebuilt, they would each be replaced within one metre of their original spot. But when crews were cleaning the non-original white paint off each brick, they found something unexpected. The ad for “modern rooms” had been covered up for decades.
When the King Eddy is filled with live music in the not-too-distant future, the energy will be through the roof. Speaking of which, there’s even room up there to set up a band and play music for all of East Village.
The Music Mile that stretches from Studio Bell through Inglewood is about to get a lot louder.