It’s been many years in the making but the beautiful musical space that is Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre is finally in its last touches and will be opening to the public July 1,2016. I was super fortunate enough to visit the facility twice over the Junos weekend last April to get a sneak peek at what’s to come. Calgary will soon be home to a truly world-class facility that will appeal to local and international audiences alike.
The inspiration behind the building was, well, obviously the music. The design is reflective of instrument cases like guitars and violins. Allied works Architecture, the design firm, even cut up different brass instruments like a trombone to examine the geometric shapes and patterns. In addition to the musical expression, the Western Canadian landscape from the foothills, to the mountains, to the hoodoos played a part in determining the building design.
Fast fact: The name of the building is Studio Bell. The organization that will be housed in the building is the National Music Centre.
I often find architect renderings to never match up with the real construction, but in the case of Studio Bell, it exceeded all my expectations. What makes the building stand out for me are the over 220,000 handmade terra cotta tiles installed throughout the inside and outside of the facility. The tiles were made in Germany and glazed in Holland by internationally renowned ceramic producers Tichelaar Makkum.
The color of the tiles is unique to Studio Bell and meant to change colors with the sun. The use of strategically placed windows and skylights throughout the building allows users to see the tiles in all different light at every level.
Sound is a key part of the architecture as each tile has been carefully placed to allow for the sound to move and resonate perfectly in each area of the building.
Studio Bell is designed as two buildings connected by a skybridge – the archway over 4 Street SE. In the end it will be five stories across nine interlocking towers making 22,000 sq ft of exhibition galleries and a 300-seat performance hall.
Fast fact: The NMC collection is so vast that only 20% of the collection will ever be shown in Studio Bell.
Not just any music museum
The National Music Centre is creating a home for music in Canada. Unlike traditional museums, there is no curator for the exhibitions instead utilizing an enlisted group of music journalists across Canada to cross regions, genres, and eras. The idea is not only to celebrate Canadian music, but the power of music itself, important moments in music history, as well as artifacts and memorabilia. So while Canada’s musical heritage will play an important part, it will pay homage to musical elements and history from across the world.
What I found really interesting was that Canada’s music halls of fames have never had a physical space before. Now in Studio Bell, all honorees of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fam and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame will finally have a physical plaque bearing their name and recognition for people to see. During the Junos, hall of fame honorees like Buffy Sainte-Marie and Burton Cummings were finally able to see their name on the wall.
The NMC collections will include notable items like the Rolling Stones mobile recording studio, Randy Bachman’s Les Paul “American Woman” guitar and Elton John’s “Songwriting piano, on which he composed his first five albums. The item I’m most excited to see though is Corey Hart’s Ray-Ban sunglasses. That’s right, those sunglasses. The storytelling of music, as well as a look at technology, instruments, sound design and more will make Studio Bell a truly interactive experience for visitors.