The rejuvenation of Ottawa’s National Arts Centre by Diamond Schmitt Architects has won an Architecture Award of Merit from the performing arts association the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT).
USITT recognized the $225-million expansion and production renewal of the multi-stage complex. The project reimagines Canada’s premier performing arts centre while honouring the elegance of its concrete Brutalism.
“This insular fortress for the arts has been turned inside out to create transparent and transformative space for public engagement, to enliven the streetscape and enhance the centre’s visibility and identity,” said Jennifer Mallard, principal, Diamond Schmitt Architects.
Three new wings built on the footprint of former terraces are crafted in a palette of Douglas fir, Owen Sound Ledgerock, bronze, and a bespoke glass curtain wall to expose and celebrate the creative activity inside. A marquee tower equipped with a three-storey video ‘lantern’ showcases original content, performance from across the country, as well as simulcast productions from the stage.
The production renewal improves acoustics, sightlines, and accessibility in the main, 2100-seat Southam Hall. An acoustically calibrated orchestra shell projects symphonic and other unamplified performance into the auditorium with new clarity. Re-raked orchestra seating and a wood-lined floor replace upholstered interior appointments that dampened the sound. The centre’s Fourth Stage—an incubator for theatre and music—is now visible from and animates the adjacent street.
A ceremony recognizing the 2020 USITT Awards will be held in Houston in April.