This is who actually won in Calgary

My short article in last week’s issue, arguing that Los Angeles architect Zoltan Pali should build the Cantos Music Foundation’s new National Music Centre in Calgary, was roundly ignored by the jury, who preferred Portland architect Brad Cloepfil and his Allied Works Architecture.

Oh well. I interviewed Cloepfil for my piece, and enjoyed our conversation. He was pretty frank that he had only had time, under the short deadlines of the competition, to come up with a few big ideas: a series of parallel towers to house the centre’s various mandates (music, education, performance); a shell that reflects elements of the region’s geography (to my eye, you sort of have to squint to see that); and, most encouraging, a ground-up, from-the-start collaboration with the multimedia specialists at Portland’s Second Story.

So Cloepfil’s proposal was only a first draft. Elizabeth Diller, another shortlisted architect, told me that’s very often the case: you throw out a few ideas, and then if you win the competition you start the serious work, often based on a closer study of the site, of deciding what three-dimensional conclusions flow from those ideas. The Cantos jury, then, was making a leap of faith in picking this guy. At least it’s not a timid choice.

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