The Thirteenth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectual Design Excellence 2011
Berkeley Prize 2011

Holly Simon Proposal

Museum of Music Moves a City

Imagine a dimly lit space with gently focused spotlights illuminating your path. The acoustic ambiance lacks the ubiquitous whirring of the city outside. You are with a small group of curious music lovers in a museum unlike any you’ve seen. A musician - doubling as a tour guide - introduces you, one by one, to piano instruments throughout the centuries. He sits and plays many of them. The notes ring down your spine, striking chords in your soul. Your eyes grow wide as you study the material, craft and architectural beauty of the instruments.

Your tour of the Cantos Music Foundation leads you through an organized forest of 700 piano instruments dating as far back as 200 B.C. up to electronic keyboards of the 1980s. The tour reminds you of the cultural impact of classical music and you glow at the conception of Rock and Roll.

The “Music Room”, the other main space in this 1916-built sandstone Heritage building, is located one floor below. It is a gathering place where the community comes together to hear and perform concerts from chamber music to local alternative garage bands. It is also where community meetings and receptions are held by local non-profit groups on any given night.

Located in the heart of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, The Cantos Music Foundation is a museum, education and community centre. It is home to the worlds’ largest collection of piano instruments and is a place unlike any other in the world. The Cantos Music Foundation is a sacred place that celebrates the trans-formative role of music throughout history and provides a resonant architectural vessel for collective experience.

I propose to tell the story of Cantos and why it is a sacred space. I will explore the broader context of this building as a strong example of performance and museum spaces as catalysts for community play, music appreciation and cultural development. I will elaborate on the means needed to sustain and enhance this cultural asset. In short, The Cantos Music Foundations requires public and private investment, an engaged and curious citizenry, and high standards for architectural design to keep it alive and well.

Cantos Music Foundation is a source of pride for a growing Canadian city and a meeting point for the increasingly diverse population. In a longer essay, I would also explore the role of the Foundation in enabling community collaboration and leading through the social art of architecture.

At some point in our lives, we have all been moved by a piece of music or forgotten our embarrassment and sang along to a popular song in public. We may have also marveled at the talent of a musician, the precision of a particular instrument or the beauty of a music venue. Music is universal, transcending language and cultural differences. Spaces such as the Cantos Music Foundation are sacred in our communities, enabling an engagement with an art form that enriches our lives and remind us of our shared humanity.

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