Government of Canada announces an architectural rejuvenation – by Diamond Schmitt – of the National Arts Centre

Today the Government of Canada announced $110.5 million in capital funding for the rejuvenation and transformation of the National Arts Centre (NAC) on Confederation Square in Ottawa. The project designer is Diamond Schmitt Architects.

Originally completed in the late 1960s, the NAC is a landmark building with a range of performance and production spaces. Designed with a rigorous geometric order, the NAC has developed a storied history of excellence in the presentation of music, drama and dance from across Canada. The transformation will include improved spaces for performance, and new wings for audience and presentation events; it also establishes a visible presence and identity in the capital and for Canada as a whole.

A marquee tower designed to extend the geometry of the original architecture into the 21st century marks a new entrance that will display performance imagery and live feeds from the NAC stage, as well as imagery to support national events and commemorations. This new visibility for programs and events will enhance awareness of the NAC as part of the national capital experience.

Says Diamond Schmitt principal Donald Schmitt, “The NAC will be transformed from its intimidating and grey presence in the capital to a highly visible and welcome showcase for the very best performing arts for residents and visitors from across Canada and abroad.”  

In reimagining the centre with transparency, creating distant views and connection to both the landscape and urban Ottawa, the design brings the artistic energy of creation to the forefront so it can be seen by the public and create a dynamic crossroads for gathering throughout the day. A transformed Fourth Stage, which serves as an incubator for new music performance, will animate the NAC’s presence along Elgin Street. The renewed NAC will have a much more public face for events, for education, for performance and creation outside the traditional venues of the theatre spaces as well as enhance the existing theatres for the improved experience of patrons.

“The new entrance of the NAC will be warm and inviting, and will embrace the nation’s capital for the first time,” says Peter Herrndorf, president and CEO of the NAC. “Visitors have often remarked to me that it’s unfortunate the NAC turns its back on the city. With this new design we will finally face the city and its most important square.”

Says the Honourable Shelly Glover, minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, “The NAC is a national treasure – a living symbol of the performing arts in Canada, and a Crown asset that needs to be restored. We are proud to renew one of our country’s most important cultural institutions just in time for Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017.”


Diamond Schmitt Architects is among the world’s top design firms for the cultural building sector. An award-winning portfolio of opera houses, concert halls and galleries includes the Mariinsky II Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, Maison Symphonique in Montreal, Daniels Spectrum and the Ryerson Image Centre in Toronto. Other current projects include the Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences in Texas and the St. Catharines Centre for the Performing Arts. For more information, visit 


NEW ENTRANCE A grand entrance will feature a hexagonal tower of glass and steel whose geometry emerges from the NAC’s original design. The entry level will be on Elgin Street, and will connect with the Southam Hall mezzanine level. Above the entry level, the exterior enclosure will be made of glazing capable of displaying high-definition imagery, either stills, video, or live feeds of NAC performances.

NEW NORTH ATRIUM Public spaces for education, pre-concert gatherings, small concerts and public events on the north face of the building will be expanded. The upper level of the North Atrium will accommodate a new lounge offering stunning views to Parliament Hill, Confederation Square, the Rideau Canal and the Chateau Laurier. The new Atrium Café located within the new North Atrium will include a coffee bar, casual seating, free Wi-Fi and digital displays showcasing the NAC’s current and upcoming performances.

REJUVENATED EXISTING SPACES The Fourth Stage will remain in its current location, but will be renovated to provide a better venue for artists and audiences. Le café restaurant will be upgraded through a revitalization of its interior, and improved accessibility and efficiency. Lobbies capacity will be improved and washroom count increased.

ENHANCED CATERING CAPABILITY The Panorama Room, an event catering space that currently can hold 225 people seated, will be expanded to accommodate up to 600 people. The total catering, meeting and event capacity will increase from 7,500 square feet to 18,000 square feet.

IMPROVED ACCESSIBILITY The project will address many of the NAC’s accessibility challenges, with the addition of ramps, elevators, walkways and wider entrances. The new North Atrium and Lobby will be barrier-free in conformity with modern standards of universal accessibility. The project will also greatly improve access into existing NAC lobbies and catering spaces.

LEED PROJECT & UPGRADES TO EXISTING BUILDING SYSTEMS AND ENVELOPE The new addition to the building will be designed and built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. The scope of the project includes the reconfiguration of some of the existing mechanical and electrical building systems. It also includes mandatory seismic upgrades to the portions of the existing building supporting the new construction.

To view a 90-second video of the NAC’s past and future, please see