st lawrence centre redevelopment toronto

Toronto getting a glittering new entertainment venue with a transparent facade

Little more than two weeks since finalists were revealed in the design competition to reimagine Toronto's St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, the two city-led agencies behind the project have announced the winning design selected to breathe new life into the aging venue.

The winning team was announced Friday by CreateTO and TO Live — organizations respectively responsible for the city's real estate and entertainment assets — in a successful bid consisting of Hariri Pontarini, LMN Architects, Tawaw Collective, Smoke Architecture, and SLA.

The team's winning design, known as Transparence, lives up to its moniker with what designers call a "high-performance transparent façade" that preserves and encloses the existing venue's concrete structure, giving it a modern feel while incorporating several Indigenous design elements.

Perhaps the most notable of these Indigenous design cues is the exterior facade's inspiration of the role of Wampum belts in storytelling. Other displays, like a circular ceremonial fire at Front and Scott streets, will reinforce the ideas of Indigenous placemaking at the revitalized theatre.

Transparence was one of five shortlisted finalists revealed in February. All teams publicly presented their designs on March 7 at the existing St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts before over 300 attendees in the venue's Jane Mallett Theatre and over 600 more digital participants.

The next day, entries were judged by a seven-member jury consisting of leaders and experts in the fields of culture, planning, urban design, and architecture, factoring in project elements like its sustainable design, adherence to green standards and heritage guidelines, and other factors such as cost-effectiveness in choosing the winning team.

Reimagining the venue provides the opportunity to upgrade it into a new cultural hub blending the themes of culture, community, technology, accessibility, and sustainability.

Upgrading the current facility, the Transparence design introduces modernizations and redesigns of the theatre complex's main stage, acoustic hall, rehearsal/multi-purpose rooms, artist-in-residence studios, media studios, child minding space, front-of-house and back-of-house public and support spaces, and improvements to the public realm, including a new plaza.

Toronto city councillor Chris Moise hails the project as "an incredibly important civic and cultural initiative for the St. Lawrence neighbourhood and broader Toronto community."

"The winning submission from the team led by Hariri Pontarini Architects honours the building's legacy while creating an accessible, uniquely flexible cultural centre with plenty of public spaces that will serve the broad cultural sector, the St. Lawrence community and people from across Toronto, all while strengthening the diverse neighbourhood."

Now that a winning design has been selected, the plan will be presented to the City of Toronto's Executive Committee at an upcoming city council meeting planned for the third quarter of 2023.

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