Awards of Excellence 2004 – New Varscona Theatre

Edmonton, Alberta

Marc Boutin Architect

This addition and renovation to the busiest experimental theatre in Canada is located in the Strathcona district of Edmonton, renowned for its active cultural life and outdoor festivals. The project is focused on the “front-of-house,” providing entry foyer, ticket office, beverage and food services, lounge and coat check space. To accommodate this program, a one-storey pavilion is extruded from the existing openings that were the vehicle entry of the converted fire station. The pavilion is designed as part of the additive composition of the converted fire station, and gains its conceptual value by acting as cultural infrastructure: building as marquee and building as stage.

In the first instance, building as marquee, the design’s translucent skin, developed from research in insulated fiberglass technology, glazed light scoop, and painted hose drying tower, provide aggressive signage that acts as an urban lantern for both the theatre and the entire cultural district of Strathcona.

In the second instance, building as public stage, the front faade of the pavilion is counterbalanced and able to be raised above the roof. In this position, it forms part of an infrastructural “proscenium arch” that supports the use of the pavilion roof as a stage for the frequent outdoor festivals for which Strathcona is the home base. In this arrangement, the roof and foyer become activated as a two-storey stage for outdoor performances, while the street itself is activated as audience space. A landscape of concrete benches, lit from underneath, can be appreciated visually in all seasons and occupied informally or as performance seating.

The theatre design is a catalyst for the public engagement of this cultural district, activating what is typically mono-functional space into the necessary negotiable space of the public realm.

Monteyne: The physical size of this tiny project is inversely proportional to its cultural ambition. Exaggerated effects are achieved through bold colours and transformable indoor/outdoor spaces that make the most of the resources of this community-based public performance facility.

Shnier: In this project, a new front-of-house addition becomes an urban back-of-house for public mise-en-scnes. The real challenge in this project is in the execution of the rendered ground plane as it seeks to extend an otherwise modest entry addition. I also challenge the image of the project to be as effective during the day as it seems in its night representations.

Yarinsky: The design strategy makes the proscenium the form, function and image of the project. This very simple and powerful approach uses an economy of means to mark the presence of this institution in the city.

Client Representative: John Hudson

Architect team: Marc Boutin, Tony Leong, Matthew Stanley, Mauricio Rosa

Structural: Read Jones Christofferson Ltd.

Mechanical: Keen Engineering Co. Ltd.

Electrical: Stebnicki Robertson & Associates

Landscape: Archifolia

Quantity Surveyor: BTY Ltd.

Area: 100 m2 (50 m2 new foyer + stage/50 m2 roof stage)

Budget: withheld at client’s request

Completion: 2005

Photography: Mauricio Rosa