Tom Patterson theatre’s unique acoustical considerations

Considering acoustical comfort in a multi-use performance facility

The other chapter in the acoustics story is what is happening outside the auditorium, in the lobbies and other public rooms. The building is a dynamic place with many indoor and outdoor activities, so it was important to understand how the facility would be used to determine the acoustic considerations for the rest of the building. The theatre is designed so a variety of events and programming can be held concurrently and to serve a wide range of purposes. Acoustically, however, such multi-use facilities can pose significant challenges because the acoustics will differ depending on the activities taking place. Ignoring this will impact the user experience because bad acoustics can make an audience uncomfortable.

There are many potential noise threats beyond the theatre walls, and the quieter the theatre, the more critical the sound isolation design becomes. Double concrete walls and noise barrier ceiling designs were incorporated to reduce sound transfer between the theatre and the spaces surrounding it. A feature glass panel in the lobby provides guests with an enticing view into the auditorium on entering the building. To ensure sound does not penetrate, 101-mm (4-in.) air gaps separate a pair of 0.25-mm (1-in.) thick laminated glass panes. This, coupled with a wooden door that is closed when a performance begins, eliminates the transmission of sound going into and out of the theatre.

Acoustic models of the Tom Patterson Theatre (TPT).

An elegant, curved glass facade runs the entire length of the building’s north elevation and provides breathtaking views of the water and adjacent parklands. To ensure exterior noise would not be too intrusive, the windows needed thicker and laminated glazing. Glazing is highly reflective acoustically, so there was an added pressure on the acoustic strategy for these rooms to mitigate sound reverberation.

The architects’ experience in designing public gathering spaces across different building types, including academic, institutional, and health care, allowed for a customized response for the Tom Patterson Theatre. The lobby, forum, and cafe wood-slat ceiling system is blanketed with absorption in a specific way: between each wood fin, there is a gap that allows air to contact concealed fabric and insulation that absorb the noise and dampen the room acoustics. This produces a warm, intimate acoustic atmosphere to facilitate ease of conversation.

Lazaridis Hall

Looking out from the Tom Patterson Theatre (TPT) across the river.

The acoustic plans for the new theatre are also designed to enhance program versatility and the festival’s bottom line. In the larger Festival Theatre, a forum space has no acoustic separation from the lobby, so events cannot be held concurrently with a performance. The goal for the new Tom Patterson Theatre was to create a more versatile forum with an emphasis on programming and scheduling diversity. This meant providing acoustic separation from the adjacent lobby. As the project developed, so too, did the potential for uses of the space in the client’s mind. If enough acoustic separation could be achieved, the space could be used more broadly and concurrently with events in the theatre and the lobby.

Flexibility of the space was top of mind as the forum became Lazaridis Hall. It would provide the option to close off the hall for smaller performances and private events or open the hall to become an extension of the lobby and cafe when needed. Having one continuous space that could also be divided and acoustically sealed, if needed, put the design to the test. Ensuring proper acoustic isolation and integration was key to enhancing the potential of the space.

The acoustical engineers first examined the acoustic separation of folding operable partitions, but these were not available in a curved configuration with a 9-m (30-ft) opening as desired by the festival. A 5-m (16-ft) high reverse engineered sliding door was custom made to provide acoustic robustness, in lieu of a tested rating. A companion and smaller door were also needed for the east side of the room.

Creating a curved sliding door and track to acoustically isolate Lazaridis Hall involved trial and error. Several layers of sound gaskets, sweeps, and stops were added to minimize sound transmission. The hall was also fitted with multiple layers of curtains to reduce transmission and reverberation in the space, as the programming needs shift between speech and musical performances.

The interior front entrance of the theatre.

Global recognition for a Canadian landmark

In 1952, Tom Patterson set out to establish a six-week Shakespeare Festival. More than six decades later, the festival has welcomed 28 million theatregoers. Like its namesake, the Tom Patterson Theatre will also create a legacy and become a treasured landmark not only for Stratford but also as a Canadian cultural destination. The facility has already received international acclaim, including a ‘Best of the Best’ award in cultural architecture from the Architecture Master Prize in Los Angeles, California. The project also won Britain’s Civic Trust Award, the only project in Canada recognized by this global competition that celebrates design excellence in the built environment.

The re-imagined Tom Patterson Theatre advances the art and possibility of performance in a building designed to attract, engage, and connect. Light-filled spaces create set pieces for encounters that complement the auditorium’s intimate enclosure. The acoustical design coupled with the architectural design enables guests to take in a performance, mingle, learn, discuss, go behind the scenes, and come together as a community.

Crafted with sustainable and natural materials, this acoustically fine-tuned, Leadership in Energy and

Environmental Design (LEED) Gold registered building embodies the very spirit of the festival to celebrate the arts and allow inspiration to soar.


Payam Ashtiani is a professional engineer and a principal at Aercoustics Engineering Ltd., a privately held firm that specializes in fostering innovation in acoustics, vibration, and noise control. With more than 15 years of experience specializing in acoustics, Ashtiani works with architects to solve noise reduction and noise mitigation issues for a wide variety of projects including health care facilities and residential planning. He can be reached at

Doron Meinhard, B.Arch., is associate partner with Hariri Pontarini Architects, a leading practice dedicated to producing works of lasting value. His extensive experience on institutional and cultural buildings includes managing the complex and multi-award-winning Bahá’í Temple of South America. Meinhard has led signature and large-scale projects such as the Richard Ivey Building at Western University and the new Nicol Building for the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University. He can be reached at

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