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Firm: Webb Zerafa and Menkès

Address: 546 6 Avenue SW

Date of final plans: 1964

Status: standing as built

Anyone who knows anything about Calgary architecture will be well aware that a large portion of the city's downtown buildings were designed by the Toronto firm Webb Zerafa Menkès and Housden (WZMH). The Calgary House office tower has the distinction of being the first building the firm designed in the city, and indeed one of the firm's earliest projects anywhere.

The Calgary House project was started in early 1964 by Foundation Developments Ltd., a subsidiary of the Montreal firm Foundation Company of Canada Ltd. Soon after it began the project, Foundation formed a new company with Manufacturers Life Insurance Company called Mandation Holdings. This joint venture was designed to handle construction and financing within a single firm.

Mandation hired the Toronto firm Webb Zerafa and Menkès to design the building. WZM had been founded in 1961 upon the death of Peter Dickinson, whose firm employed the three partners. The original design of Calgary House called for 16 storeys, but this was later reduced to 14. In reality, the building is actually 12 storeys, with two basement floors included in the count.

This 1964 design shows how drastically architectural style had changed since the late 1950s. Although it includes many elements of the International Style, there is clearly something new. Most notably, Calgary House is clad in bronzed aluminium. The use of this dark, earthy colour would have been unthinkable only a few years earlier.

Calgary House is almost entirely original today and is a splendid example of the architectural turn that was just beginning. The building's lobby features the mural "Pan and the Three Graces" by Krystyna Sadowska (1912–1994).

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