Stratford Festival to Unveil New Siamak Hariri-Designed Theatre

The Stratford Festival, North America’s largest classical repertory theatre company, will reveal its new Tom Patterson Theatre at a virtual event this Thursday, June 10, at 7 PM via a live viewing party on its YouTube channel. The new building, embedded in a riverside garden setting in this picturesque southwestern Ontario town, is poised to become the heart of the Stratford Festival. The four-part documentary series of video tours and interviews will highlight “the exceptional architecture, the inspiration behind it and the technology that will make it one of the most remarkable theatres in the world.” 

The new Tom Patterson Theatre, Lakeside Drive, Stratford, designed by Hariri Pontarini.The Stratford Festival’s new Tom Patterson Theatre glimmers like a jewel on the banks of the Avon River. Image by Ann Baggley.

The $70-million building was designed by Siamak Hariri, of Toronto-based Hariri Pontarini Architects, who won an international competition beating out 3 other firms who had been invited to take part in the design competition. 50 firms were initially invited submit their credentials, with eight firms interviewed from that list, before four were chosen to compete with their designs.

The new building replaces the original Tom Patterson Theatre, which was adapted from a former curling rink, creating a cultural and socially engaging venue offering facilities for enhanced research and development. The result, says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino, is “a work of art, not a conventional building.”

The new Tom Patterson Theatre, Lakeside Drive, Stratford, designed by Hariri Pontarini.The Stratford Festival’s new Tom Patterson Theatre’s curving walls of windows extend out toward the Avon River. Image by Ann Baggley.

The theatre was set to officially open on June 11, 2020, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Tom Patterson, the founder of the Stratford Festival. The pandemic threw a wrench in those plans, shutting down the performing arts. The viewing party will mark the hometown hero’s 101st birthday.

Nestled along the banks of the Avon River, the low-slung, 77,000 ft² building glimmers like a jewel. A shimmering bronze ‘veil’ wraps its undulating form, a prelude to the buzz of activity and performances within. The curvilinear shape continues inside, emphasizing careful detailing and rich materials of bronze, brick, oak, hickory, and slabs of Ontario limestone. The theatre and a rehearsal hall are at the heart, with lobby and lounges, café, and a secondary performance space (dubbed the Forum) curled around it in petal shapes. When it has fully grown in, the garden—envisioned as a terraced landscape with purple flowers, golden trees, and long grasses stretching across the site—will attract people in and through the site.

The new Tom Patterson Theatre, Lakeside Drive, Stratford, designed by Hariri Pontarini.Rendering: The theatre was designed to overlook the banks of the Avon River while mirroring its alluring qualities. Image by Hariri Pontarini Architects.

The viewing party will stream for 36 hours. The four video documentaries—listed below—will remain accessible on the Stratford’s Festival’s YouTube channel and its subscription service Stratfest@Home following the première.

  • Inside the Jewel: Discover the Experience that Awaits You

Take a guided tour of what you’ll experience when you see a show at the Stratford Festival’s new Tom Patterson Theatre.

  • A Space of Significance: Architecture that Stirs the Heart

The experts and visionaries behind the Tom Patterson Theatre discuss designing for the human experience, architectural influences, building components and much more.

  • Beyond Beautiful: The Inspired Design of a Riverside Gem

Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino and architect Siamak Hariri discuss the impulses and inspirations behind the new Tom Patterson Theatre and walk us through the exciting journey from idea to completion.

  • Machinery of Magic: The Technology that Supports the Art

Technical Director Greg Dougherty pulls back the curtain on some of the state-of-the-art technology that makes the magic happen behind the scenes at the new Tom Patterson Theatre.

The new Tom Patterson Theatre, Lakeside Drive, Stratford, designed by Hariri Pontarini.Rendering: To further enhance the building’s natural setting, each of the pods will be complemented by extensive gardens. Image by Hariri Pontarini Architects.

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