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This shape-shifting science centre is changing how people see and interact with the world

Calgary, Alberta

Designer education

Regional building materials, low window-wall ratios, solar shading, water and energy management plans and a full integration with the neighbouring wetlands, make SPARK an exemplary educational facility and teaching tool. It plays host to approximately half a million visitors a year and doubles the capacity of the previous facility while reducing energy use.


Featuring the reclamation of a previously contaminated site and high building standards, the facility is a living example of urban and environmental renewal through sustainable stewardship. Porous paving, bio-swales, on-site water retention/reuse and wetland areas are integrated with a high performance building envelope that uses solar shading, natural light and has a solar ready roof.

Inside out...

At a distance, the exterior is a rich patina of colour and movement and up close, a detailed framework of identifiable objects and images: the building's simple, layered skin can be peeled away to reveal temporary exhibits, graphics and artwork, making it part of each new exhibit.

...and outside in

Along with lots of natural Calgary light and smart water use, the building design brings fresh air to every room. Rather than a typical, forced-air ventilation and cooling system, the building incorporates displacement ventilation and radiant panels to distribute fresh air and highly effective heating and cooling for visitor comfort. The atrium and extensive lobby areas are heated and cooled with a radiant chilled/heated slab system for a non-intrusive but highly effective conditioning system. Underseat displacement ventilation is provided in the 250-person IMAX theatre for optimum thermal comfort and ventilation effectiveness.

Four elements

SPARK integrates four themed pavilions: Life Sciences, Space Earth and Environment, Technology and Design, and Energy and Innovation.

Project facts

Cost : $160 Million
Size: 13,500 sq. m./ 145,300 sq. ft.
Completed: 2011
Collaborators: Dome Consultants + Interior Design, Stantec, Stebnicki Robertson, O2 Planning + Design, Morrison Hershfield
LEED Registered : Gold
Builder: CANA Construction
Client: Calgary Science Centre and Creative Kids Museum Society

Achievements & Awards

Alberta Construction Magazine Top Projects, Winner, Institutional

Great City, Great Design, Honorable Mention, Calgary Mayor's Urban Design Awards