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Luminato Festival to transform iconic power plant in Toronto


May 3, 2016
by Canadian Architect

Rendering of the front lobby of the Hearn at Luminato Festival. Courtesy of PARTISANS and Norm Li.

Rendering of the front lobby of the Hearn at Luminato Festival. Courtesy of PARTISANS and Norm Li.

Luminato Festival, Toronto’s global multi-arts festival, will #TurnOnTheHearn this summer, transforming Toronto’s iconic decommissioned power plant, the Hearn Generating Station, into the world’s largest temporary community and cultural centre under one roof.

Architecturally, acoustically and creatively, the project is unique. The building’s enormous scale, open concept and cavernous depth presents a variety of sound and design opportunities made more complex by the temporary nature of the build. Further, the range of artistic projects and performances being presented over the 17-day festival (music, dance, theatre, visual arts, interactive performance and more), require a number of carefully constructed distinct spaces that won’t compromise the Hearn’s own sprawling sightlines and grandeur.

Rendering of Luminato Festival's 1,200 seat Hearn Theatre. Courtesy of PARTISANS and Norm Li.

Rendering of Luminato Festival’s 1,200 seat Hearn Theatre. The space will host The National Theatre of Scotland’s The James Plays trilogy. Courtesy of PARTISANS and Norm Li.

At the project’s outset, specialist theatre and acoustic designers Charcoalblue proposed a radical framework for the building, suggesting ways audiences could move throughout the three key performance spaces. Their work focused in particular on how the 1,200 seat Hearn Theatre could be built from shipping containers, how the adaptable Music Stage could be built to accommodate 2,000 seated and 5,000 standing for live music and dance, and designs for the self-contained Situation Rooms performance space.

Playing a game of architectural Jenga, Toronto-based architecture firm PARTISANS developed the concept to enhance the raw beauty of the Hearn while maximizing flexible and inventive design solutions. The dozens of shipping containers required to get equipment in-and-out of the Hearn will be used as building blocks to carve out distinct spaces to create intimacy and functionality in the soaring 400,000 square-foot room.

Rendering of Luminato Festival's Music Stage at the Hearn. Courtesy of PARTISANS and Norm Li.

Rendering of Luminato Festival’s Music Stage at the Hearn. The stage will be home to concerts, talks and programming from arts partners. Courtesy of PARTISANS and Norm Li.

Additional areas will be customized to accommodate visual arts projects, food and beverage offerings, and front of house and backstage needs. Comfortable lobby spaces and a central box office (also in a converted shipping container) will be open daily, and a central audience pathway, called the Turbine Hall, ensures easy access to each of the performance spaces. A Grand Staircase leads to the third floor mezzanine and the Jackman Gallery where a Luminato-commissioned city-wide original art project will be on display.

Rendering of Luminato Festival's Turnbine Hall at the Hearn. Courtesy of PARTISANS and Norm Li.

Rendering of Luminato Festival’s Turnbine Hall at the Hearn. The 900 ft. hall is dominated by 35′ tall concrete plinths, the former supports for the building’s eight massive turbines. Courtesy of PARTISANS and Norm Li.

Serving as Luminato’s home and administrative hub for the duration of the Festival, The Hearn will be an art installation in itself. Arts partner programming from TIFF, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Art Gallery of Ontario, OCAD University, The Dietrich Group, Music in the Barns and more will animate the space for 17-days.

Luminato Festival will #TurnOnTheHearn, Tuesday to Sunday (closed Mondays) from June 10 to 26. For ticketing details, dates, times and prices, visit luminatofestival.com.