An 850-seat multipurpose hall and a 300-seat black box theatre are part of a proposed performing arts centre in the heart of Fredericton, New Brunswick.
The venue will replace the Playhouse, a cultural hub on its last legs in the city’s downtown.
“We love this kind of work. It’s an opportunity to innovate and transform the facility…to retool it for the next 50 to 100 years,” says Gary McCluskie, project architect with Diamond Schmitt Architects (DSA).
The architectural firm teamed up with Fredericton-based EXP Engineering to be selected by the City of Fredericton over 19 other teams from across North America bidding on the project design.
McCluskie says the design stage is expected to take about 12 months and will include schematics, design development and construction drawings.
Timing on construction will depend on funding.
The architect says like many projects, collaboration from all consultants is critical in getting the engineering and design right.
But what is different about designing a performing arts centre like the Fredericton venue is that additional consultants are required to deal with complexities and intricacies of the new facility.
As an example, theatre designer Fisher Dachs Associates of New York will address the requirements for a stage that can morph nightly, based on the user’s needs.
Performances might range from theatrical and dance to musicals and lectures, says McCluskie, who has led the New York office of DSA on the David Geffen Hall project at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York.
“In each case, the room needs to transform a little bit…the lighting, the stage itself.
“I think that level of flexibility is why there is a broader team of expert collaborators.”
The building also requires special sound and visual treatment, a job that goes to acoustical/audiovisual consultant Threshold Acoustics of Chicago.
Also on DSA’s agenda is a design that offers a wider array of uses than its 1960s predecessor had, possibly including meeting facilities and informal reception areas for various community groups.
The building’s connection to the adjacent Fredericton Convention Centre will also be a part of the design challenge, McCluskie adds.
As the project is early in the design stage the selection of materials for the building is a ways off, but the architect suggests that mass timber and other green-friendly products will be up for consideration.
“In New Brunswick there is a mass timber construction industry developing.”
A LEED certification standard is also on the books.
“It (LEED) is kind of woven through every project now.”
The project’s location is a beacon in the city, being across from the legislative grounds and the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. McCluskie says that high profile address provides the firm an opportunity to create a special building, possibly with a wrap-around glass lobby facing Queen and St. John streets.
Diamond Schmitt’s signature is on numerous performing arts centres including the Mariinsky II in St. Petersburg, Russia and the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto.
For the City of Fredericton, DSA’s resume was welcomed.
“We wanted someone who understood performing arts centres and best practice in arts centres,” says Kenneth Forrest, director of growth and community services with the City of Fredericton. “Diamond Schmitt has a lot of expertise building performing arts centres across the country and around the world, but also familiarity with the downtown context.”