Diamond Schmitt Architects Wins an Architecture Award of Merit from USITT

The rejuvenation of Ottawa’s National Arts Centre by Diamond Schmitt Architects has won an Architecture Award of Merit from the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT).

Kipnes Lantern above new entrance NAC. Photo credit: DOUBLESPACE PHOTOGRAPHY.

The $225-million expansion project reimagines Canada’s premier performing arts centre while honouring the elegance of its concrete Brutalism.

“This insular fortress for the arts has been turned inside out to create transparent and transformative space for public engagement, to enliven the streetscape and enhance the centre’s visibility and identity,” said Jennifer Mallard, Principal, Diamond Schmitt Architects.

NAC exterior. Photo credit: DOUBLESPACE PHOTOGRAPHY.

Three new wings built on the footprint of former terraces are crafted in a palette of Douglas fir, Owen Sound Ledgerock, bronze and a bespoke glass curtain wall to expose and celebrate the creative activity inside.

A marquee tower equipped with a three-storey video ‘lantern’ showcases original content, performance from across the country, as well as simulcast productions from the stage, re-establishing the NAC as a truly national arts centre.

The production renewal improves acoustics, sightlines and accessibility in the main, 2,100-seat Southam Hall. An acoustically calibrated orchestra shell projects symphonic and other unamplified performance into the auditorium with new clarity.

Wood-lined orchestra shell in Southam Hall, NAC. Photo credit: DOUBLESPACE PHOTOGRAPHY

Re-raked orchestra seating and a wood-lined floor replace upholstered interior appointments that dampened the sound. The centre’s Fourth Stage – an incubator for theatre and music – is now visible from and animates the adjacent street.

Collaborating with the architects on the project were theatre consultants Fisher Dachs Associates, Threshold Acoustics, and Wenger JR Clancy for the acoustic shell.

A ceremony recognizing the 2020 USITT Awards will be held in Houston in April.