Toronto’s St. Lawrence Center for the Arts could get a stunning new design
A group led by Toronto architects has won an international design competition to redesign a downtown performing arts center.
Hariri Pontarini Architects will redesign the St. Lawrence Center for the Arts with the help of four other offices, the city said Friday. The center houses two theaters on Front Street East.
Five other teams were shortlisted for the opportunity, two city agencies, CreateTO and TO Live, said in a press release.
The winning design, called Transparence, features a transparent facade that surrounds the building and incorporates elements of indigenous design. These elements include the exterior, which was inspired by the wampum belts’ role in storytelling, artistry, and crafting, and a circular ceremonial fire on Front and Scott Streets.
According to Siamak Hariri, the founding architect of Hariri Pontarini Architects, the aim is to make the building more accessible to the public.
“That was a big part of our beginnings — how do we create an environment that’s radically accessible, radically open, and really inclusive of the city.”
“The whole audience gasped”
Hariri brought on two indigenous firms, Tawaw Architecture Collective and Smoke Architecture, to help develop indigenous elements of the design. The team also includes LMN Architects and the company SLA.
Hariri called the task “Herculean”.
“It was a great team effort. It was dozens of people who worked feverishly for months to really put this together,” he said. “I would say it was like an orchestra. We all worked very hard.”
Hariri said it’s important to acknowledge Toronto’s diversity.
“It brings the whole culture of St. Lawrence right to the street and that’s the concept.”
Clyde Wagner, President and CEO of TO Live, said the design is beautiful.
“During their presentation, they showed their proposal for the acoustic hall on the second floor and the entire audience gasped in amazement and started applauding. And we knew about that time that we had a winner,” he said.
Wagner said the design team understood that the center needed to have an “incredible openness” and be a kind of “ecosystem” between artists and audiences.
Renovation to create a “unique cultural hub,” agencies say
A seven-person jury, composed of people with backgrounds in culture, planning, urban planning, architecture, indigenous design and landscape architecture, evaluated the submitted designs on March 8th.
The agencies said in the press release that the center’s renovation is “an opportunity to create a unique cultural hub that blends themes of culture and community with technology, accessibility and sustainability.”
The new center will feature a main stage theater, acoustic hall, rehearsal and multi-purpose rooms, artist-in-residence studios, media studios, a childcare room, front-door common areas, front-door and back-door support, and outdoor facilities.
According to city agencies, the winning entry will be presented to the presidium of the city council and the council itself in the summer. If approved, the team expects groundbreaking in 2025.
count. Chris Moise, who represents the Toronto Center, said in the press release that the center’s renovation is “an incredibly important civic and cultural initiative” for the neighborhood and the city.
“The winning entry … honors the heritage of the building while creating an accessible, uniquely flexible cultural center with many public spaces that will serve the broader cultural sector, the St. Lawrence community and people from across Toronto while strengthening the diverse neighborhood,” said Moise.