Rocky Mountain high

In 2002, a group of committed mountain enthusiasts based in the Canadian Rockies came together with a vision to create a national centre devoted to celebrating, understanding and better experiencing the mountains. In 2006, the founding board of the National Mountain Centre commissioned Saucier + Perrotte Architectes and Marc Boutin Architects to develop an initial architectural concept for the proposed centre. Located in Canmore, Alta., north of the trans-Canada highway at the gateway to Banff National Park, the new National Mountain Centre will promote responsible and sustainable tourism, serving a crucial role in interpreting the nature, history, culture, science and sport of Canada’s mountains.

Inspired by geological strata, the $35-million centre (set to be completed in 2009) will consist of juxtaposed layers; different activities will take place within, on and under the delaminated layers. Visitors will have a spatial experience analogous to that of a mountain hike with a continuous promenade with mountain views and exhibited artifacts. The mountains themselves will become a permanent exhibit with distinct views framed by the spaces between the centre’s strata.

Promising to be one of western Canada’s great icons – a 55,000-square-foot tourist destination attracting visitors from all walks of life – the centre will consist of recreational, commercial and public spaces with features such as a world-class competitive climbing wall, permanent and temporary exhibits, research, meeting facilities and state-of-the-art multimedia presentation theatres.