Canadian Interiors


Hariri Pontarini unveils winning design for Tom Patterson Theatre

Photo credit: Hariri Pontarini Architects

Photo credit: Hariri Pontarini Architects

In a town hall meeting held last month, the Stratford Festival unveiled Hariri Pontarini Architects’ international competition winning design for the proposed new Tom Patterson Theatre, which it hopes to build over the coming year.

The project began with a “dream to build a new facility that will be a jewel on the Avon, and that will rival some of the most beautiful theatres in the world,” said Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino.

The Stratford Festival invited 50 international firms to submit their credentials. From there, the committee selected eight architects for an interview. The list was further shortened to four firms that were invited to take part in the design competition. After this extensive international search, the Festival selected Siamak Hariri, of Toronto-based Hariri Pontarini Architects, to take on the project.

“We approached dozens of firms from around the world, but the work of Canada’s own Siamak Hariri stood out and was the Board’s unanimous choice,” said Dan Bernstein, Chair of the Festival’s Board of Governors and head of the architectural selection committee.

Photo credit: Hariri Pontarini Architects

Photo credit: Hariri Pontarini Architects

Upon selection, Hariri said, “We are honoured to be working so closely with Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino, Executive Director Anita Gaffney, and the Stratford team, and join them in aspiring to design a theatre unlike any other, embodying creativity and encouraging engagement and imagination. We aim to turn what is beloved within the theatre outward, reflecting the joy and spontaneity of the Stratford Festival in architectural form.”

Hariri’s design for the Tom Patterson Theatre will stand as an attractor, and is positioned to draw people to the City of Stratford, to the Festival, along the banks of the Avon River, and through the gardens.

Photo credit: Hariri Pontarini Architects

Photo credit: Hariri Pontarini Architects

From the outside, the building will glitter like a seductive jewel, a magnetic prelude to the delight of the performances within. An undulating, shimmering bronze veil wraps the theatre in petals of warmth and light. Once inside, the curvilinear design creates quiet folds—eddies where one can wait for a loved one, engage in quiet conversation, or savour a contemplative moment sheltered from the current of activity. The design creates an architecture presenting a unified whole, while at the same time enabling each programmatic element—the lobby, café, and Forum—to have distinct experiences nestled within.

At the heart of the building, clad in softly lime-washed brick masonry, the theatre is designed to honour all that is cherished about the beloved Tom Patterson—the unique elongated thrust stage, the pronounced stepping of the tiers that provide clear site lines, and the unparalleled intimacy. The curved ceiling embraces the patrons below, and is expressed as a basketed surface of textured dark wooden planks. Between each plank, acoustic treatment and concealed air slots provide all the technical rigour to achieve a sophisticated theatre environment. Beneath the vaulted ceiling, a network of suspended technical catwalks replete with elegant wooden acoustic baffles will form a hanging ‘chandelier’ that provides flexibility and access to lighting and rigging positions for all performances.

Photo credit: Hariri Pontarini Architects

Photo credit: Hariri Pontarini Architects

In keeping with the experience inside the theatre, a breathtakingly beautiful garden will stretch out from each end of the site, drawing people through the grounds. The terraced landscape will breathe, alive with colour and texture, evident in the golden hues of the trees, the rich purples of the flowers, and the softness of the long grasses. A garden that is grand enough to become a local landmark and destination in its own right, full of variety and wonder.

“The new theatre will expand on the magical qualities of the existing Tom Patterson auditorium. It will be uniformly intimate. It will have vastly improved acoustics and a much greater sense of comfort for audience members. It will take the strengths of the current theatre and make them bespoke—tailored with the finest materials and craftsmanship,” said Cimolino.

Construction is anticipated to begin upon completion of the 2017 festival season.

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