Contemporary Calgary opened to the public in its newly renovated 11 Street S.W. location in 2020, but the building already had a long and illustrious history in Calgary before the art gallery gave it new life. Originally called the Centennial Planetarium, it first opened in 1967 in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Canadian Confederation.
Constructed of raw concrete, the building is a shining example of the Brutalist architecture that was so popular in the 1950s and ‘60s. In its early days, the Planetarium housed its own theatre, lecture hall, library, and, of course, telescopes, as well as the aircraft and engines that later became the founding collection of the Hangar Flight Museum.
In 1984, the Planetarium became known as the Calgary Science Centre (later rebranded as Telus World of Science) — many Calgarians have fond memories of exploring its hallways and rooms on school field trips. The building continued to be used as a science hub until 2011, when Telus Spark reopened in its current location in Renfrew.
After sitting vacant for a period, the building was leased to Contemporary Calgary for a visual art gallery. Dedicated to modern and contemporary art, Contemporary Calgary embraces the building’s history and the architectural art it has inherited. After completing renovations in 2019, the space is now presenting local, national, and international art exhibitions.
Five Calgary Philharmonic musicians recently spent time inside Contemporary Calgary, performing short solo works of their choice in different areas of the gallery. Robert McCosh, Principal Horn, plays a solo in the Atrium while standing on Mosaic (1979), by Helena Hadala, RCA, a large artwork that adorns the floor. The colourful tiles where McCosh stands contrast with the brutalist concrete backdrop of the building’s large circular staircase. The concrete also helps to create a rich sound, which reverberates throughout the gallery as McCosh performs Laudatio by Bernhard Krol. Four other musicians — Maxwell Stein, Michael Hope, Adam Zinatelli, and Slavko Popovic — are seen in other rooms and hallways as they perform their own contemporary solo selections.
“The artwork is magnificent, the architecture is incredible, and the acoustic is just really wonderful to perform in,” says Stein.
Join us online for City Spaces: Contemporary Calgary to explore the gallery and enjoy the music. The concert premieres Saturday 3 April 2021 at 7:30PM, and remains available for viewing on our website for 30 days at calgaryphil.com.
City Spaces: Contemporary Calgary premieres online on Saturday 3 April 2021 at calgaryphil.com.
By Dagny MacGregor