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Calgary Success Story

Celebrating 35 years of Gibbs Gage Architects

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The result of a friendship begun on the opening day of classes at the University of Manitoba, Gibbs Gage Architects is still a company that thrives on relationships, between its staff and with a host of clients and industry people who have helped it become one of Western Canada’s largest and most prolific architectural firms.

After graduation, Wade Gibbs and Doug Gage made the move to the booming city of Calgary in the 1970s when the downtown core was undergoing massive expansion.

In 1983, thanks largely to the national energy program, construction of new projects came to a sudden halt. But by then, confident in their own abilities and armed with a Rolodex full of established relationships they had built, the good friends made the rather brash decision to start their own firm.

The business flourished and this year Gibbs Gage Architects is celebrating its 35th anniversary. Throughout that time span with great support of clients, suppliers, family and friends, the firm has grown from a two-man startup into this city’s largest pure architectural design firm supporting a staff of over 100 and their families.

The early years were not easy, but sticking to their Canadian Prairies fundamental values of integrity and a strong work ethic, they gradually built up a portfolio and credibility in the marketplace still enjoyed today.

By 1999, it became apparent the continued success had made the business too large for the two sole partners to manage by themselves and the following year a new management structure was implemented. Three of the firm’s key architects – Vince Dods, Rick Lewis and Stephen Mahler – who shared a passion for hard work, relationships and eager to share in the leadership of Gibbs Gage Architects – were invited to join the partnership group.

The new team established a new strategic plan, and with a shared commitment to collaboration, mentorship and knowledge sharing doubled the size of the firm within the next decade, while building on a solid reputation enabling it to attract many of the city’s best design and production talent.

Gibbs Gage Architects’ legacy was founded on its many prestigious projects within our downtown and inner city, but today goes way beyond that core area. But the name of the firm cannot be mentioned without making reference to a skyline that displays the result of creative design visible from any angle.

Some of its most attractive and visible downtown design projects have had a major impact on earning Calgary a reputation for the quality of its stylish towers the firm has worked on in the compact core.

They include Livingston Place, Jamieson Place, Eighth Avenue Place, Centrium Place, Keynote Urban Village and Palliser South where the firm works out of its own attractive office space over two floors of the Aspen Properties complex and was also responsible for the design of the building’s high observation deck protruding from the iconic Calgary Tower.

In total, Gibbs Gage Architects can proudly boast of completing more than 10 million square feet of inner-city office space. And it’s not made up entirely of highrise towers; it also includes some of the firm’s most satisfying results outside of the downtown core including working with Remington Development Corporation to deliver Meredith Block and Strategic Group’s 20/20 on 4th Street in the heart of Mission.

The firm has also been involved in the design and construction of the new 600,000-square-foot Amazon warehouse just outside Calgary in Rocky View County.

Outside of the core, Gibbs Gage Architects has enjoyed working with many building projects that have added another 10 million square feet of completed spaces.

For many years, Gibbs Gage Architects has enjoyed a strong association with the Calgary Exhibition & Stampede. The BMO Centre is the city’s major trade-show complex and with the completion by Gibbs Gage of the Phase I and II expansions, it now offers 250,000 square feet of exhibit halls.

Another major project the firm was very proud to be associated with on the Stampede grounds was the design of the Agrium Western Event Centre – one of the largest structures in the Stampede’s 130 years of history. An exciting Calgary attraction, the centre consists of a 2,500-seat arena, a 20,000-square-foot multipurpose exhibit hall and VIP meeting rooms to create state-of-the-art practice and competition event space for a wide variety of agricultural events.

Gibbs Gage Architects is credited with the design of several of our major institutional buildings that include the addition of 750,000 square feet of formal and informal learning space at SAIT. The dramatic, wavy-roofed exterior of the SAIT Trades and Technology Complex located along 16th Avenue NW provided the institution with 56 new classrooms, 94 new teaching laboratories/workshops and three new schools of learning.

Design criteria had to respect the campus master plan, incorporating a high level of reverence to the unique and collegiate architecture of Heritage Hall – the institution’s historical and inspirational focal point at the heart of the campus.

The firm was also chosen to re-clad/repurpose the John Ware Building, one of the oldest classroom buildings on campus, and create higher efficiencies while renovating the interior spaces.

Consulting design services for educational institutions and school boards has allowed Gibbs Gage opportunities to participate in the intellectual process of the study of designing facilities for an ever-changing educational system, while allowing its staff to help express community and school board values.

The firm takes great pride in its collaborations with other noted architectural firms such as Diamond Schmitt Architects with whom it has teamed with for many projects in Alberta including two remarkable buildings on the University of Calgary campus: the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning which expands upon the university’s ideas of integrated learning and flexible space and the expansion and renovations to the Schulich School of Engineering.

According to founding partner Doug Gage, Gibbs Gage Architects rules the roost as experienced experts in the field of educational facility architecture. A member of international organization, the Association for Learning Environments, he says, “I like the fact that schools are so multifunctional – that every room, from offices to gym, labs, classrooms and health facilities, becomes a design exercise of its own.”

The firm has been rewarded in earning a reputation for pioneering a whole generation of architecturally-significant schools across Alberta, and in doing so enriching the lives of generations of children, families and educators.

Notable in its large portfolio of major projects in this field are the Bishop McNally High School, Strathmore High School, Notre Dame High School and the recent new facilities of Seton High School and Nelson Mandela High School.

Pride of staff in this category must go to Elbow Park School that was recently reopened three years after the devastating flood that was originally thought to be the death of the 1926 structure.

Only the original north exterior wall and brick facade of the school was able to be saved but Gibbs Gage Architects carefully selected architectural interior pieces in the new school and using wood hammer trusses and roof cupola, preserved/reconstructed and reincorporated it into the library of the replacement school.

Gibbs Gage is committed to establishing a solid connection between each development’s setting, structures and the people who will interact with them on a daily basis.

All kinds of accolades were awarded to the firm for its first big urban design project – Olympic Plaza – and since then it has been rewarded with many significant master plans for developments such as Deerfoot Meadows, Sage Hill, McKenzie Towne and the master plan for Brookfield Residential Properties’ exciting 300-acre mixed-use community of Seton that includes over a million square feet of retail/office, a major health campus, education and recreational facilities, and an LRT transit link.

Gibbs Gage was responsible for the design of Seton’s welcoming sign, its fire hall, theatre, major grocery store, high school, seniors housing, front-street medical building, and the under-construction Seton Recreation Facility. A huge 330,000-square-foot building, the recreation centre will provide individuals and families with a competitive sport venue, to be operated by the YMCA, and a dynamic community hub that includes a 25,000-square-foot regional public library branch.

The recreation centre follows the firm’s successful designs of the impressive Cardel Place (now Vivo for Healthier Generations) in northeast Calgary, Genesis Place in Airdrie, Spray Lakes Sawmills Family Sports Centre in Cochrane, and the 66,000-square-foot Elevation Place in Canmore featuring world-class climbing walls and a glulam-wood structure and end-glazing wall looking out towards Canmore’s signature Three Sisters Range. And Gibbs Gage was responsible for total upgrades and renovations to the Trico Centre for Family Wellness and the Repsol Sport Centre (formerly Talisman Centre) here in the city.

A growing sector to the firm and the city of Calgary is the evolving world of multi-family residential. Working closely with longtime existing clients such as Bentall Kennedy as well as new clients like QuadReal, Casadona Developments, Killam Properties and Avi Urban to develop new models for residential development, Gibbs Gage Architects has helped to change, and is in the process of changing the inner-city and suburban skylines with projects such as Portfolio, Fifteen15 and Casadona Place.

A recent job well done for the firm’s integrated design studio was the repurposing of what many still remember as the PanCanadian office tower to The Edison where Gibbs Gage Architects turned the lobby space into a large, iconic atrium area and the third-floor fitness centre into attractive welcoming spaces for longtime client Aspen Properties.

Calgary has suffered another slowdown in its economy but Gibbs Gage Architects still continues to be busy with some exciting projects on its books.

Staff are working on some major projects that help paint a rosy picture for the firm’s immediate future.

In Saskatoon, it’s the master plan of a complete downtown block for Triovest called River Landing. The overall development proposal includes two office towers, a hotel and a condo-residential building with approximately 77,000 square feet of office and retail space. Gibbs Gage Architects also designed one of the office towers that is already under construction.

It continues its pace in new development in Calgary with the total redevelopment of the Stadium Shopping Centre for Western Securities that will include grocery/retail, two residential towers, a hotel and medical offices.

In the newly vibrant East Village, a two-storey retail podium for RioCan REIT beneath two residential towers for Bosa Properties are under construction, creating a vital new addition to the area, and a development permit has been approved for the Bentall Kennedy residential/office tower complex at 633 Eau Claire. The 28-storey building will offer 400,000 square feet of office space and 250 rental apartments.

And also in the Eau Claire district, many are looking forward to the start this fall (after the 150-metre relocation of the brick smokestack of Harvard Developments’ proposed transformation) of Eau Claire Market into an iconic, vibrant, dense and diverse mixed-use redevelopment.

Gibbs Gage Architects is advancing the master plan that shows a hotel, 1,000 residential units and 360,000 square feet of new retail, making it over the next several years a city jewel along the banks of the Bow.

The 35 year-old firm is looking forward to the next 35 years and in doing so, recently brought on new partners, Chito Pabustan and David Wittman, who have been instrumental in the  growth and success of the firm over the past several years.

Gibbs Gage Architects plans to continue doing the things it does right, building relationships while investing in its people to create an environment that fosters mutual respect, motivation and fun.

Doug Gage and the other partners uphold a priority that, “No matter where you go, it’s your people who take you there and it’s something we never take for granted.”

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