Song of Four Seasons
by Janet Collins
The newly opened Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto, designed by Diamond and Schmitt Architects, Inc., combines the best features of traditional European grand opera houses within a thoroughly modern envelope. With a world-class opera company in each of Canada's three largest cities, it may come as a surprise that none claims a purpose-built modern opera house. Until now.
Located in the heart of downtown Toronto, this new home for both the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada is an elegantly understated composition of square shapes, rendered in black iron-spot brick, with a highly transparent glass room — the City Room — that is the entrance and social space. The building exterior reflects the nature of the city's street grid and contrasts with the curved form of the R. Fraser Elliott Hall performance venue inside.
Unlike many other opera houses in the world, the entrance to Four Seasons is not axial to the hall. Rather, it comes off the plaza to the side, allowing the bulk of the building to define the street edge rather than be set back. The orchestra level is at grade.
"Most [traditional] opera houses had a grand staircase rising to a piano nobile," says A.J. "Jack" Diamond, principal of Diamond and Schmitt Architects. "Here, the entrance is at sidewalk level. It's transparent, so creates a welcoming facade. You can see in from the outside, and the inside frames the city anew." >>>
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Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto, designed by Diamond and Schmitt Architects.
Photo: Tim Griffith Photographer
An opera hall in the European tradition, with modern acoustics.
Photo: Steven Evans Photography
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