Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts

The city of Toronto is a beautiful place full of a variety of people, different cultures and diverse architecture. One structure that helps give Toronto such a high level of sophistication in its architecture is the recently erected Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. This building draws the public in with its extended frontage that acts as a lantern in the night and also as a bright future in Toronto’s drive for designing new modern buildings. This building holds a lot of interest to an architecture student because of its modern take on an opera house and performance building and the spatial qualities within it. It draws from the past; the best and most important qualities of a theatre and community space and applies modern structural elements and materials to create a completely unique, admirable and educational structure. The Four Seasons Centre’s most important exterior element, the glass facade, creates a larger than life doorway allowing the city’s sidewalk to extend into the form and allow the building’s warmth; life; and light illuminate the city streets both literally and metaphorically, becoming a lantern in the dark cityscape.

The Four Seasons Centre is not a historical landmark or historical location, but it did replace the O’Keefe Centre as the home of the Canadian Opera Company, and the National Ballet. The desire for a new (and better) opera house arose in the early 1980’s due to the poor acoustics in the O’Keefe Centre for the Performing Arts.  Toronto architecture firm Diamond and Schmitt’s Jack Diamond became the lead architect on the project, and with the assistance of acoustician Robert Essert of Sound Space Design LTD, and Fisher Dachs Associates.

The myriad of different materials used within the Four Seasons Centre contrast and combine to create a multi-faceted piece of architecture. The most exquisite and detailed exterior cladding is also a central part of the architectural design: the City Room glass walls. These monumental transparencies are curtain walls held by steel fixtures called mullions. These apertures are situated on the University Ave and Queen St sides, with the dominant emphasis of the City Room towards University Ave. The R. Fraser Elliott Hall has been given a lot of praise as one of the world’s best theatre spaces for a number of reasons, including acoustic brilliance and unobstructed views. These factors are carried through into the City Room, by a Beech wood veil that hides the organic shaped auditorium from the geometric exterior.

The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts’ exterior facade reflects its interior purpose in a metaphorical way: an audience (the pedestrians) only sees what the performer (building envelope) allows them to see. The performer and the architect convey emotion and show motion and draw the audience (public) into the performance and building. The buildings curtain wall mimics the curtains of a stage when open: framing the stage and drawing one’s attention into the centre. The building itself evokes a different emotion to every individual, but its purpose and practicality cannot be denied: Diamond used the lot to its full advantage, designing a horizontal, linear design that emphasises geometric forms like rectangles and squares to coincide with the same geometric principle carried throughout the rest of the architecture in that Downtown area. The proportions of the exterior square truly compliment the shape and size of the horseshoe-like auditorium, and the layering of the auditorium levels are complimented by the layering of the floors in the City Room.

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