Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts

“New facilities of this magnitude have meant exceptional opportunities for faculty and students alike and the future development of our academic programs is profoundly matched by a building of equal measure, nuance and imagination.”

Derek J.J. Knight, Former Director, Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts

Brock University plays a key role in the renaissance of downtown St. Catharines, by moving its fine and performing arts program to the 19th-century Canada Hair Cloth Company building. Adjacent to the school is the dynamic new FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre.

The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts demonstrates how a large heritage building can be preserved and made relevant for 21st-century learning. A blend of heritage features and new, state-of-the-art learning facilities provide inspiring spaces for students of music, dramatic and visual arts.

A 35,000 square foot addition connects and unifies the disparate pieces on the site: the brick-clad volume, enclosing a 280-seat Studio Theatre, cantilevers over the south main entrance atop concrete columns, taking cues from similar historic valley-edge buildings in St Catharines. Below the theatre, a student lounge doubles as lobby space, and together with the adjacent art gallery form the symbolic heart of the facility.

The wide–span former shed now houses performance studios and scenery and costume workshops. The scenery shop, with high ceiling, exposed truss work and decking, is on the same level as the theatre to facilitate set installation and removal.

Original wooden floors, metal columns, stone and masonry walls provide the palette for contemporary fixtures and technologies. An innovative custom truss configuration allowed for a column-free painting studio on the top floor. The new school is designed to act as a hub for the local artistic community by providing space and continuing education opportunities.

Beyond the excellence of the performance and learning spaces, the adaptive-reuse project supports a new downtown population of students who support the local economy and provide a level of energy and vitality to St. Catharines.

Client Brock University
Completion 2015


Photography Tom Arban


Awards See all project awards
2016 Building Design + Construction, Reconstruction Awards – Silver
2016 National Trust for Canada – Adaptive Use/Rehabilitation
2015 Niagara Community Design Awards – Adaptive Re-Use
Team See full project team