Calgary Icons: Verve
Like a guitar string ready to reverberate, the Riff runs through the heart of East Village.
The pedestrian walkway runs at an angle, inspiring some serious architectural thought for the developers of those pieces of land.
Verve plays a smart tune off that Riff, a 25-storey building with a tall, six-storey podium and 290 suites by FRAM + Slokker.
Ralph Giannone graduated from the University of Toronto in 1987 and is a member of both the Ontario and Alberta Associations of Architects. In 2013, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. He founded Giannone Petricone Associates in 1995 with Pina Petricone, and has since won multiple awards for urban design. Giannone is the author of the first LEED-certified Canadian interior.
Ontario-based FRAM Building Group and Slokker Real Estate Group teamed up to sign the second major land development deal in East Village in 2011. FRAM + Slokker launched First, an 18-storey mixed-use development with construction expected to be completed this year. Verve is FRAM + Slokker’s second project. With four development parcels of land in East Village, expect to see more from this team.
The Riff, a pedestrian walkway that goes against the grid of Calgary, cuts diagonally through East Village. It’s a word which means musical improvisation or perhaps a clever remark.
“Working off the spirit of the word, we were led to the word ‘verve,’ ” says Giannone. “Verve is the name of an edgy kind of record label for jazz artists, which of course ties in with ‘riff.’ It also describes a person who is full of energy and alive, and that’s what the East Village is all about. These strong, individual words resonate with the ethos of the vision for this new, exciting neighbourhood.”
The starting point for Verve came from Broadway Malyan, the seminal British firm hired by the Calgary Municipal Land Corp. (CMLC) to design the East Village.
“Hopefully, we are taking the design to another level,” says Giannone. “We started with the idea of the Riff, the walk that goes diagonally through the neighbourhood to the National Music Centre, the library, Fort Calgary and eventually the riverfront. It’s pedestrian only, lined with shops, boutiques, cafes and restaurants. To live in close proximity to this exciting, animated ground play of community uses — the amenities that make for a great neighbourhood — is going to be pretty exceptional.”
Verve is comprised of a podium and a point tower. The podium features several different buildings on the block that face every street, each six storeys high. The podium is brick and glass, with a fine filigree of textural quality and architectural expression. The point tower features a strong, simple gesture of glass and metal. There is a strong articulation of a serrated balcony edge, which wraps around the building.
“That serrated look, as it rises from ground level, plays off the movement of the word ‘riff’ and the word ‘verve,’ ” says Giannone.
The balconies appear dynamic as they rise up vertically on the point tower.
“We’ve used blues, two shades of blue and a pinstripe along the balconies, to add a bit of colour as we believe, especially in the winter, that it would be best for Calgary to have a little bit of colour as you look across the skyline. Our firm is housed in Toronto, but we’ve been working in Calgary for three or four years. Verve is our first building in the East Village. Calgary has amazing energy — a positive energy, different from Toronto. I love coming out here and we hope we can add to that excitement.”