TORONTO – The rejuvenation of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa is a 2019 Regional Finalist for the Civic Trust Awards, the longest running built environment awards program in Europe. The NAC is also shortlisted for the Selwyn Goldsmith Award for Universal Design.
Diamond Schmitt Architects transformed the mid-century performing arts centre by enclosing existing terraces to create new transparency and connection with the city, improved spaces for performance and new wings for audience and presentation events.
The NAC’s rigorous and robust geometric order in the Brutalist style is preserved and informs the new design in a palette of wood, glass and bronze. What was a fortress for the arts where patrons had difficulty finding the front door is now open and accessible to engage the public realm in the heart of the city.
Access and circulation in the principal auditorium, Southam Hall, is enhanced. The room was originally designed as ‘continental seating’, with continuous rows of seats from one side of the room to the other. Circulation, particularly for people with movement challenges, was difficult. The Rejuvenation Project included the insertion of two new mid aisles and a cross aisle on the Orchestra level, providing necessary, flexible seating for wheelchairs and companion seats.
A marquee tower designed to extend the geometry of the original architecture into the 21st century marks a new entrance. Public space for education, pre-concert gatherings and small concerts occupy the new North Atrium. An upper level Lounge takes in views of Confederation Square and Parliament Hill. A transformed Fourth Stage, which serves as an incubator for theatre and music, animates the NAC’s presence along Elgin Street.
The renewal brings the artistic energy of creation to the forefront to engage with the public and creates a dynamic crossroads for gathering at the NAC at all times of the day. See this 3-min day-in-the-life video of how the new space transforms the centre.
The UK-based Civic Trust program has run continuously since 1959 and acknowledges the very best in architecture and environmental design. Its mission, as stated on its website is “to reward projects that offer a positive cultural, social, economic or environmental benefit to their local communities.”
This is the fifth Regional Finalist recognition for Diamond Schmitt and three went on to win a Civic Trust Award: Lazaridis Hall at Wilfrid Laurier University (2018); Bridgepoint Active Health Care (2016) and Daniels Spectrum (2015), both in Toronto. The Centre for Green Cities at Evergreen Brick Works was a finalist in 2013.
Diamond Schmitt Architects (www.dsai.ca) has offices in Toronto, Vancouver and New York City. The firm’s extensive portfolio includes institutional, recreational, commercial and residential buildings, healthcare facilities and performing arts centres. Among current projects are the interim home for the Senate of Canada in Ottawa; the Innovation Centre at Red River College in Winnipeg; and Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts in Texas.