The first new building for the city’s YWCA organization in nearly 50 years, Calgary’s YW Hub is dedicated to healing and wellness for women in crises. Opened in late 2019, the 11,798-square-metre facility in the Inglewood neighbourhood includes 100 private one-bedroom units with shared kitchens and living areas, and provides a range of services including counselling, employment resources, language instruction, parental support and childcare – along with fitness and community spaces.
Led by an all-women team from the local branch of Kasian Architecture, the design of the building focused on creating a sanctuary, one that offers a “sense of safety, resiliency, comfort and inclusivity for all users.” The plan was guided by six pillars – well-being, connected, inclusive, beacon, comfortable and safe – that dictated everything from the site’s orientation (optimized to maximize exposure to natural light) to the selection of furniture and finishes.
Augmenting this holistic approach is a unique wayfinding program by branding and environmental design studio Entro, whose winning proposal “created an art program integrated in the wayfinding,” says senior associate and design director Chris Herringer.
Echoing the intent of the facility while at the same time “providing innovative opportunities for storytelling and human connection,” Entro’s scheme fosters a welcoming home-like environment that is far from institutional. Working with independent curator Mary-Beth Laviolette, Herringer and his team commissioned 19 local (and primarily women) artists to contribute original pieces to their masterplan, the majority of which are fibre, textile and indigenous beadwork. “Fibre and textile art has a lot of warmth, it’s traditional and it’s a craft and skill that is passed down through generations,” Herringer says of the main medium, noting that “more than 40 per cent of the clientele are Indigenous women, so it was important the artists have ties to the Indigenous community.”
Comprising approximately 60 room identifiers and five large-scale installations, the individual works reflect each artist’s response to the brief and their own “connection to the natural world, to spirit and to place.” Themed according to an area’s function – childcare is illustrated with whimsy, counselling with healing images, educational zones with knowledge, and so on – the artwork ranges from playful to sophisticated, becoming an integral element of the building. Beyond merely guiding clients and visitors through the physical space, the one-of-a-kind wayfinding recognizes the nourishing influence art can have on culture, community and diversity.
Commissioned artists: Ilse Anysas-Salkauskas, Alaynee Goodwill-Littlechild, Sharon Johnston, Sharon Rose Kootenay, Diane Krys, Rachelle LeBlanc, Linda McBain Cuyler, Liv Pedersen, Jillian Roulet, Caitlin Thompson, Allison Tunis, Diana Un-Jin Cho, Neepin Auger, Lisa Brawn, Elaine Funnell, Jason Carter, Leah Gravells, Faye HeavyShield and Janice Tanton
Lead Image: Dancing Bears (2019) by Jason Carter
Using original artwork by local artists, the new YWCA complex emphasizes community, inclusion and healing.