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Calgary Award for Accessibility

Building provides barrier-free access to beautiful music

As the Taylor Centre for Performing Arts prepares to hand off its “new building on the block” designation to the Riddell Library and Learning Centre, it’s not without hitting yet another high note with the community.

On Sept. 28, Mount Royal’s Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts became the proud recipient of the 2015 Calgary Award for Accessibility. According to the City of Calgary’s website, “The Award for Accessibility recognizes buildings or facilities in Calgary that significantly exceeded the minimum requirements of Section 3.8, ‘Barrier-Free Design’ of the Alberta Building Code for accessibility by persons with disabilities.”

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi kicked off the 2016 Calgary Awards.
~Photo courtesy The City of Calgary

In the construction of the 2014 Alberta Construction Magazine Project of the Year (Institutional >$50M), the $90.5 million conservatory and performance hall had approximately $1 million earmarked specifically for accessibility considerations. The concept was introduced in 1999, ground was broken in 2011, construction commenced in 2012 and the process crescendoed in 2015 as the Centre opened its doors to the community after 16 years in the making. Home to both the Mount Royal Conservatory and the Bella Concert Hall, the Taylor Centre was created to increase Calgarians’ access to some of the best musicians, performers and artists from across the world.

"We invite all community members to the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts to enjoy performances and participate in classes," says David Docherty, president of Mount Royal University. "This means it must be accessible for everyone."

Over and above

Also a LEED Gold certified building, accessibility aspects of the Centre include: up to 20 wheelchair accessible seating spaces in the Concert Hall; direct vehicle access; interior and exterior barrier-free paths of travel; considerate location of controls, dispensers and receptacles; enhanced lighting; availability of assisted listening devices and an intentional reduction of ambient sound through informed architectural design.

“Mount Royal went over and above the code requirements, specifically by adding automatic operators to all of the washroom doors throughout the building,” says Kay Harrison, project manager for the University’s Department of Facilities Management. In addition, several wheelchair lifts provide access for performers and audiences to the Bella’s stage and various seating areas within. An additional exterior ramp was added at the performers’ stage door entrance, and all primary building entrances are accessible, which greatly exceeds the minimum code requirements, Harrison says.

“There must be no barriers whatsoever to accessing the multitude of musical experiences offered here,” says Charlie Webber, dean of the Faculty of Continuing Education and Extension.

As well as allowing for everyone to enjoy the space its offerings, designing for accessibility also assists in maintaining schedules, allowing easy access to all areas of the building. These convenient entrance and exit options further enhance the guests’ experience.

“The Bella Concert Hall is a world-class facility, unique to the City of Calgary,” says Lee Miller, associate, SAHURI + partners architecture Inc., which collaborated with Pfeiffer Partners Architects Inc. to complete the accessibility initiative of the project.

Miller says that while the design team worked hard to maximize the inherent accessibility of the design, Mount Royal’s contribution and overall expectations for the project were integral to its successful execution.

“It used to be that encouraging an organization to be inclusive was seen as an inconvenience. Institutions like MRU now recognize inclusivity as part of its richness. MRU went well beyond minimum requirements, making the Taylor Centre exemplary in this regard,” he says.

Conservatory instructor takes home Community Achievement ― Arts award

(L-R) Kay Harrison and Lee Miller at the
2016 Calgary Awards.

Also a recipient of a Calgary Award in the Community Achievement ― Arts category was Linda Kundert-Stoll, a decorated Conservatory piano instructor who holds a Master of Music in Piano Performance from the University of Calgary, an Associate Teacher’s Diploma in Piano from the Mount Royal University Conservatory and an ARCT Piano Teacher’s Diploma from The Royal Conservatory of Music. A well-respected examiner, adjudicator and workshop clinician, a number of Kundert-Stoll’s students have achieved prestigious levels in competition, performance and composition, including earning appearances at New York’s Carnegie Hall and Washington’s Lincoln Center.

For Webber, the pair of wins is just the start for the new building and its occupants, which he calls, “The nexus of music, speech and performance experiences for the MRU community.”

He says, “The MRU Conservatory inspires all of us, no matter what our profession or discipline, to strive for excellence and to maximize our contributions to society.”

Harrison, who previously worked on the Calgary Centre for Performing Arts (now Arts Commons) in the early 80s and a member of the Calgary Philharmonic Chorus, says that the Taylor Centre project encompassed both her professional construction experience and personal musical experience.

“[It was] extremely complicated with all the high-end acoustical requirements, but to see and, more specifically, to hear the 'end product' when walking through the studio floors or sitting in the Bella makes all the hard work of the entire project team worthwhile.”

Music to Your Ears concert series

This year's Music to Your Ears concert season features renowned performers spanning a wide variety of musical genres and showcases the incredible talent of Mount Royal Conservatory instructors and international visitors. It’s an exceptional line-up features something for everyone.
Tickets here.

2016 Calgary Award Recipients

The Award for Accessibility

Mount Royal University ― Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts

The Environmental Achievement Awards

Educational Institution ― The University of Calgary, Environmental Law Clinic

Corporate ― Hyatt Regency Calgary

Not-for-Profit ― Centre for Affordable Water, Sanitation & Technology (CAWST)

The City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize

Eugene Stickland ― The Piano Teacher

The Signature Award

Richard “Dick” Haskayne

The Community Achievement Awards

Arts ― Linda Kundert-Stoll

Commerce ― Bleeding Art Industries

Community Advocate ― Patricia McLeod

Education ― David Werklund

Heritage ― Harry Sanders

Youth — Andrew Min

Grant MacEwan Lifetime Achievement

Edward J. (Ted) Valentine

Citizen of the Year

David Pickersgill

Oct. 4, 2016 ― Michelle Bodnar