The Energeum is a showcase of natural energies and acts as a counterpoint to downtown Calgary which has become a symbol for the fossil fuel industry. As a museum, The Energeum offers an interactive and energetic experience where the public can learn about natural energies, such as wind, solar, tidal and geothermal energies. A significant amount of event space, along with the 5th floor restaurant and 6th floor bar, add to the experience and make the Energeum an exciting destination within Calgary.
The site is a largely undeveloped escarpment that separates residential Calgary from the Bow river and the city’s commercial downtown. The building’s form is an expression of the enormous and unseen energy behind tectonic plates beneath the Earth’s surface. Responding to this sloped site, The Energeum is a symbolic demonstation of the energy within the escarpment which over time has forced three tectonic plates to collide and dramatically erupt from the ground. This eruption makes up the overall form of the building and each ‘plate’ is derived from its program – the first is the administration section, the second is the main public segment and the third is the theatre. The public segment is the most prominent and cantilevers into the air at an angle of 22 degrees from the ground. The final form reaches 35m high and the building floor area is 7300m2.
The interior is very much an open environment with views from one platform to the next, all of which are accessible either by stairs or the inclined elevator. The exterior of the building has several key features not least of which is the tunnel that cuts through the public section. The tunnel acts as a main pedestrian thoroughfare that connects The Energeum with the escarpment pathway network. It also creates a variable level of interaction with the building as one can pass through the tunnel while merely catching glimpses of the interior or enter the museum through the secondary entrance. The exterior staircase is also a significant feature that leads patrons to the 5th floor where one is rewarded with stunning views of downtown Calgary. This level also provides access to the restaurant while a smaller exterior staircase leads to the bar which resides on the top floor. In addition, there is a large outdoor plaza in front of the building that houses access to the underground parkade, the form of which acts as a counterpoint in size and scale to the main building.
The primary structure is an essential part of this building. The Energeum simply could not exist without the massive Vierendeel truss structure made up of hollow section steel members. This structure, in combination with a post-tensioned system which anchors the truss to the concrete foundation, makes the dramatic cantilever possible. From the interior of The Energeum the Vierendeel members are clearly visible and they remind occupants that the entire building rests at an angle.
The Energeum, acting as an undeniable counterpoint to Calgary’s modest skyscrapers, provides an exciting destination within the city and its form continually reminds people that the world is full of energies beyond those derived from fossil fuels.