Stage Door News

Stratford: The architect of the new Tom Patterson Theatre is awarded the Governor General’s Medal in Architecture

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Hariri Pontarini Architects has won the top Canadian honour, the Governor General’s Medal in Architecture, for the design of the new Tom Patterson Theatre.

In announcing the award on June 6, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and the Canada Council for the Arts said: “The re-imagined Tom Patterson Theatre at the Stratford Festival advances the art and possibility of performance with a building designed to attract, engage and connect. Its organic shape, inspired by the flow of the adjacent river, blends into the riverside garden landscape and dissolves the line between indoors and out. Spacious, light-filled public rooms create set-pieces for encounter that complement the auditorium’s intimate enclosure. Finely crafted in sustainable and natural materials, this theatre embodies the spirit of the festival to celebrate the arts and promote a vital connection with community.”

Describing the facility as “an exceptional cultural building,” the jury lauded the Tom Patterson Theatre, saying: “The nature of materials, organic forms and textures promotes sensory perception and contributes to the appreciation of the arts. The elegant assembly creates a calm and inspiring atmosphere inside and outside the enclosure.”

Designed by Siamak Hariri, the Tom Patterson Theatre was near completion just as the world shut down in 2020. It sat, like a sleeping beauty, until May 10 of this year, when a ribbon-cutting ceremony officially opened the building to the public. This past Saturday, June 4, saw the building gloriously animated with the gala opening of Richard III, directed by Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino, who, having championed the project, had to wait an additional two years to mount a production in the space.

“The Tom Patterson Theatre provides actors, directors and designers not only with the most perfect canvas but also with every instrument their imaginations might call upon to make a masterpiece. This unique elongated thrust stage is surrounded by an auditorium that is beautifully functional for audiences. The theatre is in turn enveloped by public spaces which create outstanding opportunities for events and joyful interaction. And the welcoming, open facade is irresistibly nestled in a garden along the Avon River,” Cimolino said. “We thank Siamak Hariri and his team for this gift which will benefit theatre artists and audiences for generations to come.”

“Receiving this award is a testament to the unwavering dedication of countless individuals who worked tirelessly to realize this project,” said Hariri. “The design is a celebration of the Festival’s connection to its city and its community, and provides a platform for new initiatives at this beloved cultural institution.”

The Governor General’s Medals in Architecture are given every two years to recognize and celebrate excellence in recently built – and designed – projects completed by Canadian architects.

They were preceded by the Massey Medals, established in 1950. In 1957, Rounthwaite & Fairfield Architects was awarded the Gold Medal by the Massey Foundation for the design of the Festival Theatre.

“In the 1950s, the creation of the iconic thrust stage in the Festival’s flagship theatre redefined classical performance, just as the design of the permanent Festival Theatre heralded a new era in Canadian architecture. Now, seven decades later, the Tom Patterson Theatre, designed by Siamak Hariri, is set to define the next great chapter of the Stratford Festival’s history. It’s a glittering jewel simultaneously illuminating the shores of the Avon River while reflecting the beauty of the surrounding parkland. It is both grand and intimate, welcoming audiences to the generous lobby spaces and drawing them to the heart of the theatre, the auditorium.”

The Tom Patterson Theatre has been honoured around the world since its recent completion, winning the global Architecture MasterPrize, the U.K. Civic Trust Award and the Design Excellence Award from the Ontario Association of Architects, as well as the OAA’s People’s Choice Award.

Photo: Tom Patterson Theatre on opening night. © 2022 Ann Baggeley.