Rejuvenated National Arts Centre aims to transform Ottawa

The Government of Canada recently announced $110.5 million in capital funding for the rejuvenation and transformation of the National Arts Centre (NAC) on Confederation Square in Ottawa. The project designer is Diamond Schmitt Architects.

Originally completed in the late 1960s, the NAC is a landmark building with a range of performance and production spaces. Designed with a rigorous geometric order, the NAC has developed a storied history of excellence in the presentation of music, drama and dance from across Canada. The transformation will include improved spaces for performance, new wings for audience and presentation events and establishes a visible presence and identity in the capital and for Canada as a whole.

A marquee tower designed to extend the geometry of the original architecture into the 21st century marks a new entrance that will display performance imagery and live feeds from the NAC stage, as well as imagery to support national events and commemorations. This new visibility for programs and events will enhance awareness of the NAC as part of the national capital experience.

“The NAC will be transformed from its intimidating and grey presence in the capital to a highly visible and welcome showcase for the very best performing arts for residents and visitors from across Canada and abroad,” said Donald Schmitt, Principal, Diamond Schmitt Architects.

In reimagining the centre with transparency, creating distant views and connection to both the landscape and urban Ottawa, the design brings the artistic energy of creation to the forefront so it can be seen by the public and create a dynamic crossroads for gathering throughout the day. A transformed Fourth Stage, which serves as an incubator for new music performance, will animate the NAC’s presence along Elgin Street. The renewed NAC will have a much more public face for events, for education, for performance and creation outside the traditional venues of the theatre spaces as well as enhance the existing theatres for the improved experience of patrons.

“The new entrance of the NAC will be warm and inviting, and will embrace the nation’s capital for the first time,” said Peter Herrndorf, President and CEO of the NAC. “Visitors have often remarked to me that it’s unfortunate the NAC turns its back on the city. With this new design we will finally face the city and its most important square.”

“The NAC is a national treasure – a living symbol of the performing arts in Canada, and a Crown asset that needs to be restored. We are proud to renew one of our country’s most important cultural institutions just in time for Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017,” said The Honourable Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages.

Diamond Schmitt Architects ( has developed particular expertise in the cultural building sector. An award-winning portfolio of opera houses, concert halls and galleries includes the Mariinsky II Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, Maison Symphonique in Montreal, Daniels Spectrum and the Ryerson Image Centre in Toronto. Other current projects include the Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences in Texas and the St. Catharines Centre for the Performing Arts.