The City of St. Catharines, Ont. and Brock University have selected Diamond and Schmitt Architects to design a $94-million performing arts complex to serve the cultural/commercial and educational needs of the Niagara region.
Through a process involving two separate submissions – one for the new St. Catharines Performing Arts Centre and another to relocate Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts to a downtown location – Diamond and Schmitt Architects won both commissions following independent evaluation by the city and the university.
“Diamond and Schmitt Architects brings a wealth of experience to the table and is the firm we feel best interprets our vision to create a truly innovative, state-of-the-art performing arts centre,” said St. Catharines Mayor Brian McMullan. The adaptive re-use of a former factory as a teaching and performance space for Brock’s Fine Arts program will bring 500 students and faculty into the city centre and provide a cultural and economic boost for a once-vibrant downtown that in recent decades has been in decline.
“This is a historic threshold for the University and for St. Catharines-Niagara,” said Rudi Kroeker, Chair of Brock’s Board of Trustees, adding, “it illustrates how an entire community can benefit when people work together.”
“Working on both projects, which are adjacent, really opens up the potential to weave the various threads of topography, heritage, partnership, creativity and culture into a dynamic combination on an amazing site”, said Donald Schmitt, Principal with Diamond and Schmitt Architects.
Features of the area for development include frontage on St. Catharines’ main thoroughfare, St. Paul Street, the sloping landscape of the Niagara Escarpment, the repurposing of the landmark 19th-century Canada Hair Cloth textile mill and the route of the early Welland Canal that once coursed through the city. “The task now” added Schmitt, “is to engage the citizens of St. Catharines and the university community in a dialogue, to listen and learn, so that we build a centre that truly reflects their aspirations. We’re a strong believer in that’s how you get it right.”
Douglas Kneale, Dean of Brock’s Faculty of Humanities, said transferring the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts from the main campus to a repurposed historic building downtown, and being next door to the new St. Catharines Centre for the Performing Arts represents a massive leap forward for students and educators. “The advances will benefit multiple departments across our faculty,” said Kneale. “From both an academic and a creative point of view, these facilities will bring many new opportunities for creative intersections of dramatic arts, music and visual arts, not just intellectually but spatially and physically.”
“The Downtown Performing Arts Centre will be the cornerstone of a rejuvenated downtown St. Catharines and provide an enviable space for our diverse arts community to put their talents on display for Niagara residents and visitors,” added Mayor McMullan. The design phase for both projects is expected to begin in March 2011.