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Four-theatre complex a triumph for Diamond Schmitt Architects

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by DCN NEWS SERVICES

ST. CATHARINES, ONT.—A major new centre for the performing arts featuring four performance spaces as well as an arts learning environment is opening in stages in downtown St. Catharines, Ont.
Partridge Hall is a 781-seat adjustable acoustic concert hall, part of the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines. The space held its first performance event Nov. 14.
Partridge Hall is a 781-seat adjustable acoustic concert hall, part of the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines. The space held its first performance event Nov. 14. - Photo: Diamond Schmitt Architects

Designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects of Ontario, the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre is a 95,000-square-foot cultural complex with the following venues:

Partridge Hall, a 781-seat adjustable acoustic concert hall;

the 304-seat Cairns Recital Hall;

Robertson Theatre, a black box performance and event space for 200 people; and

a 199-seat film theatre.

Opening night for Partridge Hall was Nov. 14, with a set of performers taking the stage including Chorus Niagara, Karin Di Bella, William Yong, Mark Lalama and the Hercina Arts collective.

As described in a media release, the facility, located on St. Paul Street, features "honey-coloured masonry and glazed curtain wall that showcase the lobby space to the street" and provides a focus for downtown activities and community life. The rear facade, viewable across a valley, meaning it has the potential to become a city landmark, has a framed cantilever and inner glazing.

The four soundproof theatres are designed to permit the mounting for a variety of performances, says Gary McCluskie, principal, Diamond Schmitt Architects. At Partridge Hall, for example, acoustic material can be lowered for amplified concerts behind scalloped wooden slat panels, while Cairns Recital Hall is lined with wood and features variable acoustic banners. The Robertson Theatre has retractable seating and a triple-glazed window wall with the St. Catharines skyline as a backdrop.

The complex is built next door to Brock University's Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, which opened two months ago in a heritage building renovated and expanded by Diamond Schmitt. The arts school has access to Cairns Recital Hall and the film theatre for performances, screenings and lectures.

The $60-million performing arts centre and $40-million academic facility were awarded to Diamond Schmitt by separate tender from the city and Brock University, respectively.

Diamond Schmitt's portfolio includes academic buildings, performing arts centres, libraries, residential and commercial buildings and, in the health care sector, life science facilities, research laboratories and hospitals. Current performing arts projects include the Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts in Texas, the reconfiguration of the Toronto Centre for the Arts and the renovation and expansion of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

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