On July 1, Ottawa’s National Arts Centre (NAC) inaugurated a new building wing, the first transformation the building has seen in 50 years. Diamond Schmitt Architects designed new public spaces and a new entry which connects the National Arts Centre to Confederation Square and the Parliamentary Precinct for the first time.
The new wings feature transparent architecture that contrasts the fortress-like exterior of the existing structure. When the National Arts Centre was built in the 1960s, it was designed to be accessible only by car. The new entrance of the rejuvenated NAC is designed to meet the needs of a modern audience by allowing pedestrian access.
The new wings are constructed of exposed wood structure and ceiling coffers of Douglas fir and framed on a custom-designed glass curtain wall system, while floors feature Ontario limestone. The new lobby is formed as a series of six major spaces, each shaped to support a variety of program events, while together they create a dramatic public venue.
“The NAC can now support activity throughout the day in light-filled spaces designed to engage the public and become the crossroads for the performing arts community,” said Donald Schmitt, principal, Diamond Schmitt Architects, in a press release.
The new entrance features the Kipnis Lantern, a digitally-enabled beacon that is visible from broad vantage points. It will be able to live stream artistic production from the National Arts Centre and from across Canada.
The new North Atrium features public space for education, pre-concert gatherings and small concerts. An upper-level Lounge presents views of Confederation Square and Parliament Hill. A transformed Fourth Stage will face Elgin Street in the second phase of the transformation, expected to be completed in the autumn.
Diamond Schmitt also completed a renovation of the NAC’s main auditorium and expanded the Panorama Room, now sized for over 600 patrons.
“Thanks to Donald Schmitt’s brilliant design, today the NAC embraces the nation’s capital, and emerges from its original concrete structure into an open, transparent and modern public building, to become the living room of the city,” said Peter Hernndorf, president and CEO of the National Arts Centre.