canadian practice diamond schmitt architects offers an exclusive glimpse into their latest project where they transform a 1900-seat toronto centre for the arts into two performing venues. changing the nature of the purpose-built room meant working with the existing infrastructure as much as possible, while at the same time, radically changing its appearance and functionality.

the lighting in each chevron panel can be controlled separately, presenting infinite possibilities of color effects
all images © tom arban



initially, gary McCluskie from diamond schmitt architects has determined the appropriate dividing line to accommodate the program at the toronto centre for the arts: a 580-seat lyric theatre and flexible 300-seat black box. the proscenium of the original stage is chosen as the separator, while a double-wall construction with acoustic and vibration mitigation between both is built to achieve the required mass and sound separation. now, the larger room occupies the seating of the former theatre. twelve rows are removed to build the stage — complete with wings, overhead catwalks, a steel grid and rigging system. the rake of orchestra and balcony seating has been augmented to align with the geometry of sightlines for shorter viewing distances to the stage. 



toronto centre for the arts
video © DiamondSchmittArchitects



a signature design feature effectively reduces the size of the room, provides a distinct identity and enhances the experience. addressing all three objectives is a system of lightweight and internally lit acoustic panels that surround the audience, defining the new proscenium. even more, chevron shaped and fabric-faced panels line the newly defined perimeter of the house to create a curving facetted enclosure around the audience and across the front stage. steel frames anchored to the existing walls support the chevrons, while programmable LED light fixtures installed in each are wired back to the lighting control system. this dynamic feature allows new kinds of creative expression by enveloping the entire room in colour washings that respond to the dramaturgy.

chevron panels create the illusion of being three-dimensional when in fact they extend only four inches off the wall



a different approach is taken for the black box where existing volumes are celebrated rather than concealed. this space takes full advantage of the former main stage with tantalizing sightlines of the soaring fly tower above. by not enclosing this original feature, it is possible to incorporate the 33-metre-high space in a theatrical manner. a state-of-the-art tension grid system for hanging lights and backdrops is an unobtrusive solution to keeping the void visible — highlighting the volume and scale of the original tower. colour changing LED lights are mounted to the base of the existing rigging as an illuminated vertical screen of steel and cables up the back of the theatre. in the future, should popular taste swing back to the previous broadway-style format, the design can be reversed to its original configuration.

back lighting allows for new kinds of creative color expressions that can respond to the dramaturgy

green LED color washing immerses the entirety of the theatre room

the lyric theatre is lined with chevron-shaped panels and programmable LED light fixtures in each 

view of the 550-seat lyric theatre  

the greenwin theatre is open to the 90-foot-high fly tower, a space which can be lit for performance

flexible seating for 300 spectators is retractable to accommodate theatre-in-the-round



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: lea zeitoun | designboom

    have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.

    comments policy
    LOG IN
    designboom's comment policy guidelines
    generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
    the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

    what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
    let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

    - please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
    - please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
    - please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
    - please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
    - please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
    (there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
    in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
    the best 100-200 entries too.)

    a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.

    architecture news