TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning

ARCHITECT Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects
LOCATION Toronto, Ontario

The new TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning is the final phase in the master plan to build a new home for Canada’s premier music and arts educator, the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM). KPMB, under the direction of Marianne McKenna, has been working with the RCM to realize the vision set forth in the 1991 award-winning master plan.

The overall project involved the progressive restoration of McMaster Hall and the construction of a new TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning to create a unique hybrid of a teaching and rehearsal facility and destination concert venue with three major performance venues. The space between the historic and new buildings is enclosed to create a skylit pedestrian court linking the Bloor Street entrance to the Concert Hall and Lobby. The glass-and-steel structure of the new addition provides a dynamic counterpoint to the polychromatic façades of the heritage buildings.

Urbanistically, the project occupies an important site in midtown Toronto at the threshold of the University of Toronto’s downtown campus, and integrates Philosopher’s Walk, a landscape pedestrian route that runs north and south linking Bloor Street to Hoskin Avenue. The design was strategically conceived to define a new cultural precinct for the city in concert with the transformation of the adjacent ROM and the expansion of the Gardiner Museum around the corner on Queen’s Park.

Although the new additions are substantive in scale and size, the siting, massing and articulation is deferential to the 19th-century heritage buildings on Bloor Street which have housed the RCM since 1962. The emphasis on transparency and contemporary building systems create a dynamic counterpoint to the polychromatic masonry walls when encountered from Philosopher’s Walk. KPMB was also involved in the restoration of the exterior heritage fabric and the 240-seat Ettore Mazzoleni Hall.

A key mandate was to maximize the capacity and flexibility for integrating new technology and adapting to changes and growth in programs. The new additions include 43 new teaching and practice studios, the renovation of Ihnatowycz Hall (1898) and a new 150-seat Conservatory Hall, a rehearsal space designed to accommodate a range of functions. In scale and proportion it replicates the acoustic quality and stage size of the main Koerner Concert Hall to prepare students for live performance.

In addition to Mazzoleni Hall and Conservatory Hall, the project incorporates the 1,135-seat Michael and Sonja Koerner Concert Hall–the performance heart of the project that provides a premiere acoustical environment. Its undulating wood “veil” integrated with the canopy above the stage define an iconic image for the RCM.

Overall, the TELUS Centre emphasizes the primacy of acoustics to directly support the RCM’s educational mission to nurture a creative society.

Georges Adamczyk: Les liens entre le bâtiment historique et le nouvel édifice sont très bien composés. La restauration de l’ancien édifice d’allure victorienne est en fait très bien mise en valeur par le choix d’une construction rigoureuse et transparente pour la nouvelle adition. La présence du conservatoire sur le campus de l’université est très inspirante et la façon dont il accompagne le “chemin des philosophes,” est remarquable.

Jane Pendergast: When you consider all the architectural, landscape and urban forces at work on this site it is remarkable how deftly the architects have managed the forms, the places within, the experience of moving through this assembly of buildings, the dialogue between old and new materials, and the presentation of the project on so many fronts.

Client Royal Conservatory of Music
Architect Team Marianne Mckenna (partner), Robert Sims (associate in charge), Dave Smythe (project architect), Meika Mccunn (project architect), Carolyn Lee, Frances Lago, John Mestito, Gary Yen, Dan Benson, Krista Clark, Bill Colaco, George Friedman, Erik Jensen, David Jesson, Robin Ramcharan, Rita Kiriakis, Lexi Kolt-Wagner, Scott Pomeroy, Mark Simpson, Deborah Wang, Chris Wegner, Norm Li, Clare Radford, Nick Lim
Acoustician Sound Space Design with Aercoustics Engineering Ltd
Theatre Consultant Anne Minors Performance Consultants
Structural Halcrow Yolles
Mechanical Merber Corporation Consulting Engineers
Electrical Crossey Engineering
Landscape Janet Rosenberg & Associates
Interiors KPMB Architects
Contractor PCL Constructors Canada
Costing Curran McCabe Ravindran Ross
Audiovisual Engineering Harmonics
Architectural Lighting Martin Conboy Lighting Design
Heritage Goldsmith Borgal & Company Limited Architects
Area 190,000 ft2
Budget $110 M
Completion September 2009