Canadian Architect


Renovated National Arts Centre by Diamond Schmitt Architects opens in Ottawa

July 5, 2017
by Canadian Architect

Photo: Lisa Logan

Photo: Lisa Logan

On July 1st, Canada’s 150th Birthday, the National Arts Centre inaugurated a new building wing which transforms the Centre for the first time in 50 years. Diamond Schmitt Architects has designed new public spaces and a new entry which, for the first time, connect the NAC to Confederation Square and the Parliamentary Precinct in Ottawa.

Delicate and transparent, the architecture of the new wings reveals the artistic animation within and stands in contrast to the fortress-like mass of the existing structure. Open and welcoming, the new wings animate the civic and Parliamentary realm for patrons and visitors to the capital.

In the 1960’s, the building was designed to turn its back on the city and only be accessed by car. In shifting the entry, the design embraces the city and the pedestrian realm. The NAC rejuvenation is designed to meet the needs of a new audience, one that is not the elite that was the audience in 1967.

Photo: Doublespace Photography

Photo: Doublespace Photography

The new wings are constructed of exposed wood structure and ceiling coffers of Douglas fir and framed on a custom-designed glass curtain wall system that pushes the limits of glass innovation. With floors of Ontario limestone, the new lobby is formed as a series of six major spaces, each shaped to support a wide range of program events, and together create a dramatic public venue embracing the adjacent park landscape, the Rideau Canal, Confederation Square, the City and the Parliamentary Precinct. 

“The NAC can now support activity throughout the day in light-filled spaces designed to engage the public and become the crossroads for the performing arts community,” said Donald Schmitt, Principal, Diamond Schmitt Architects.

Photo: Lisa Logan

Photo: Lisa Logan

The new entry, fronting the City for the first time, is marked by the Kipnis Lantern, a luminous beacon seen from broad vantage points. The Lantern is digitally enabled to live stream artistic production from the NAC as well as from across Canada.

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, will animate the NAC’s presence along Elgin Street in the second phase to be completed in the autumn.

Diamond Schmitt also completed a renovation of the main auditorium. “Southam Hall has been reshaped to achieve significant improvements in acoustics as well as patron comfort. A new orchestra shell and updated production facilities mark the next stage of renewal,” said Jennifer Mallard, Senior Associate and project architect.

A dramatically expanded Panorama Room, now sized for 600-plus patrons, reaches out to the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Originally completed in the late 1960s, the NAC is a landmark building with a range of performance and production spaces and has developed a storied history of excellence in the presentation of music, drama and dance from across Canada.

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1 Comment » for Renovated National Arts Centre by Diamond Schmitt Architects opens in Ottawa
  1. Guy Monette - OAA says:

    I like the design and glad that this architect took his/her cues from the original tetrahedron modular concept and was able to create the opposite of heavy brutalist construction with the lighter, modern and airy glass hexagonal shapes.
    What the author fails to mention is that the 1967 design was responding to the idea of making the Rideau Canal as the “street”, thus placing the main entrance and box office adjacent to it. This was inspired by such locales as Venice, Amsterdam and other urban areas where the city edge comes to the water. Unfortunately, the National Capital Commission (NCC) and the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA) have taken a backwards approach and only allow recreational activity along both edges of the Canal. Even the former Union Station (Government Conference Centre) across the way does not respond or interact with the Canal in any way.
    Also, the Canal-side of the NAC is and has always been accessible by pedestrian, simply not in a direct way. Elgin Street, as a main entrance will bring more animation to that side of the street and Confederation Square.

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