Great Plains Recreation Facility
Associated Architects : MTa
Sited among large, light-industrial buildings at the eastern edge of Calgary, the Facility serves as a civic anchor and architectural benchmark for the growing city. Conceived as a twin-pad arena, the Facility includes space for future expansion that will double the number of rinks to four, and this foresight helped shaped the structure’s torqued hexagonal plan: the north and south pads are mirrored, such that when the program is doubled, the Facility’s final expansion will represent a 180-degree rotation of the existing plan. By pivoting the future expansion around an elevated restaurant and kitchen, the final phase will continue to employ the current entry plaza and lobby. Siting was further influenced by the broader landscape, bermed to integrate the building mass into the earth within the stormwater path.
Externally, the Facility is expressed as a large, glacier-like monolith with two-tiered massing. A wide rift in the lower tier marks the entry plaza—an inlet lined with warm, amber-coloured glazing evocative of a Western sunset. The exterior cladding pales from the undulating black ribbon of the foundation to the zinc-panelled lower tier to the white upper tier, which contains the elevated spaces above the rinks, with clerestory glazing to the north and south.
From the entry plaza, visitors are met by a lobby backed by full-height glazing—a rink on either side, and an enclosed double-height viewing gallery between them. This viewing gallery, lit by a string of skylights, fills the gap between the two slightly offset and rotated rinks. The Facility’s supporting spaces—including meeting rooms, pro shop, and mechanical and administrative spaces—are positioned around the building’s perimeter. In an inversion of typical arena design, the change rooms are positioned on opposite ends of the plan, running along one side of each rink, and marked with a band of vivid orange that, with the entry plaza glazing, acts as both wayfinding and clear architectural expression. This inversion frees up the core of the building for the continuous social space of the viewing gallery, and reconceives the hockey facility as a true civic hub and social magnet.
The Facility targets LEED Gold designation, restructuring the landscape with multiple storm water management strategies including standard-besting resilient plantings and stormwater retention. Inside, water pre-heating, under-slab hydronic heating, ice-melting and air preheating strategies are deployed for ultra-efficient heat recovery and re-use.