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Renovated Southam Hall opens at National Arts Centre in Ottawa


October 26, 2016
by Canadian Architect

NAC - Southam Hall. Image courtesy of Diamond Schmitt Architects

NAC – Southam Hall. Image courtesy of Diamond Schmitt Architects

The main auditorium of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa has re-opened following a renovation accomplished in just three months that is designed to add comfort and improve acoustics in Southam Hall. 

New, wider seating throughout the auditorium replaces the original upholstered seats from when the arts complex opened in 1969. The changes also include removing the so-called “continental seating” of continuous rows without aisle access. Now the orchestra seating is divided into three sections with the addition of two new aisles for greater accessibility. A fourth parterre section has been created at the rear separated by an aisle that crosses the length of the orchestra seating.

NAC - Rejuvenation. Image courtesy of Diamond Schmitt Architects

NAC – Rejuvenation. Image courtesy of Diamond Schmitt Architects

The acoustics of the room will benefit from new hard wood flooring and wood seat backs that will cause sound to bounce off the wood. The flooring is coated with an oak veneer and coloured a slate grey. “Acoustic performance in Southam Hall is greatly improved by the changes made with this renovation – the addition of the wood floor and seat backs have made it a much more resonant space,” said NAC Orchestra Music Director Alexander Shelley.

The changes reduce the capacity of the hall by 250 seats, down from a maximum of 2,331. The multi-purpose room is home to the NAC Orchestra and hundreds of other programs throughout the year. 

NAC - New public tower space. Image courtesy of Diamond Schmitt Architects

NAC – New public tower space. Image courtesy of Diamond Schmitt Architects

“This is the first stage of renewal for Southam Hall as we continue to transform the entire National Arts Centre with a new atrium, marquee tower and entrance, new wings for audience and presentation events and create a transparent and public connection with the community at a high-profile intersection in the heart of Ottawa,” said Jennifer Mallard, Senior Associate, Diamond Schmitt Architects. The next stage of renewal for Southam Hall will update production facilities and add an orchestra shell. The expanded and rejuvenated National Arts Centre will open on July 1st, 2017, Canada’s 150th anniversary.

To view a 2-minute video of the NAC’s construction progress, please click here.



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