September 15, 2003
by Canadian Architect
Designed by Jack Diamond of Toronto’s Diamond and Schmitt Architects Incorporated, the Canadian Opera Company’s (COC) new facility, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, is slated to open in June 2006. The COC is Canada’s largest producer of opera and currently stages its six yearly productions at Toronto’s Hummingbird Centre. The new 2000-seat facility has broken ground this spring, and is situated at the corner of University Avenue and Queen Street, across from Osgoode Hall and next to the Toronto Sheraton Centre. The main entrance/reception hall will be located on University Avenue, while the Queen Street side will maintain an animated pedestrian and retail presence with a box office, shops, and coffee venue. A play of transparent and opaque screens positioned in dynamic tension with each other include design compositions of plane and plateau, texture and polish, and solid and void. The fully glazed City Room, regarded as an extension of the sidewalk at University and Queen, renders the opera house accessible to the public and makes visible the pre-performance arrival and movements of the audience, particularly on the transparent stairwell and aerial amphitheatre. After dark, this Room will glow like a glass lantern among the otherwise low ambient light of the area. In addition the subway is accessed directly from the building.
A traditional five-tiered European horseshoe shaped auditorium, the R. Fraser Elliott Hall, will provide no seat further than 120 feet from the stage, making the facility one of the most intimate such venues in the world. Designed for the acoustics necessary for opera, and sight lines essential for ballet performances, special considerations were made for protection from outside subway, streetcar and other street sounds such that the entire audience, chamber pit and stage are to be built as an entirely separate and isolated structure of the building. In stark contrast to the City Room, the audience chamber is a closed envelope. A rooftop terrace for outdoor receptions faces Osgoode Hall, while dance rehearsal studios will provide space for ballet performers right above stage level. Back-of-house functions for performers and technicians are to be located along Richmond Street, while below-grade will be trap room level technical staff accommodation and orchestra dressing rooms.
Retained are Sound Space Design of London, UK for acoustics, and Fisher Dachs Associates Theatre Planning and Design of New York. Diamond and Schmitt are currently also working on the Shakespeare Company’s new venue in Washington, D.C., a performing arts centre, museum and gallery in Medicine Hat, Alberta, and a reconfiguration of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa among other projects.