The Royal Conservatory of Music Telus Centre for Performance and Learning

Architect Kuwabara Payne Mckenna Blumberg Architects

Location Toronto, Ontario

Founded in 1886, the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) is Canada’s premier music and arts educator. Since 1963, the RCM has been housed in McMaster Hall (1881) and Mazzoleni Hall (1910) on Bloor Street West. The restoration of McMaster Hall and the construction of the new TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning will create a total of 190,000 square feet of new academic and performance space including an 1,100-seat concert hall, studios and classrooms, a media centre, library and rehearsal hall. The RCM project will define a new cultural precinct for the city in concert with Daniel Libeskind’s transformation of the Royal Ontario Museum and the expansion of the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art by KPMB on Queen’s Park.

The new additions act as a backdrop against which the existing heritage buildings are featured on Bloor Street. The space between the historic and new buildings is enclosed to create a skylit pedestrian court extending from the Bloor Street entrance to the Concert Hall and Lobby. A series of bridges traverse the upper level, facilitating circulation between the upper levels of the old and new buildings. Contemporary glazing systems for the new additions provide dynamic counterpoints to the polychromatic facades of the heritage buildings.

The TELUS Centre is conceived to provide a flexible, fully wired infrastructure to adapt easily to new technologies, including e-learning and video-conferencing workshops using broadband technology and advanced digital acoustic instruments. The architects worked closely with a core user group to create teaching and instruction spaces that reflected the RCM’s objectives for the evolution of its music programs. It will also house the 1,100-seat Michael and Sonja Koerner Concert Hall which has been sculpted to create an optimal acoustic environment for live and broadcast performances. The design of the Hall, distinguished by an undulating wood “veil” integrated with the canopy over the stage, will create a signature image for the RCM and establish the venue as a destination for music lovers worldwide.

The overall design of the TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning emphasizes the primacy of acoustics throughout its new and renovated facilities, and is conceived to create a physical embodiment of the RCM’s educational mission and its mandate to nurture the vital role of music in culture and society.

Ouellette: While not exactly a surprise to jury members, the TELUS Centre is compelling for its tectonic rigour and careful respect for existing site elements. Two KPMB projects bracket Libeskind’s polemic ROM Crystal. It is this one, however, that expresses a mannered clarity that stands up to its more architecturally aggressive neighbour. The eastern faade’s relationship to Philosopher’s Walk, a singular historic passage in the university’s campus landscape, offers a sensitive combination of elements that complements rather than overwhelms the intimacy of the space. This is an exceptional solution to a difficult historical context.

Provencher: This project presents a solid scheme for a small site. Given the seemingly impossible constraints of site and context, the architects have nonetheless managed to develop this project in a uniquely sensitive way. They have proposed an elegant and modern solution which wholly respects the existing architecture of McMaster Hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music.

Taylor: The challenge of packing an extensive program into a tight site is skillfully accomplished through the creation of interstitial voids between new and old that enrich the user’s experience of both. The incorporation of Philosopher’s Walk into the design and the new wing that stretches out to Bloor Street are strong urban design moves. This project shares a number of important characteristics with KPMB’s project for the additions and renovations to the National Ballet School on Jarvis Street in the way the old building is incorporated and celebrated.

Client Royal Conservatory of Music

Architect Team Marianne Mckenna, Robert Sims, David Smythe, Meika Mccunn, Dan Benson, Krista Clark, Bill Colaco, George Friedman, Ramon Janer, Erik Jensen, Rita Kiriakis, Carolyn Lee, Norm Li, Nick Lim, Scott Pomeroy, Clare Radford, Mark Simpson, Jimmy Sun, Lexi Kolt-Wagner, Deborah Wang, Chris Wegner

Structural Yolles Partnership Inc.

Mechanical Merber Corporation

Electrical Crossey Engineering Ltd.

Acousticians Sound Space Design With Aercoustics Engineering Ltd.

Theatre Consultant Ann Minors Performance Consultants

Heritage Architect Goldsmith Borgal & Company Limited Architects

Landscape Janet Rosenberg & Associates

Contractor Pcl Constructors Canada

Area 190,000 Ft2

Budget $85 M (Total Project Budget); $64 M (Construction Budget)

Completion Phase 1: Fall 2007; Phase 2: 2008