Stratford Festival unveils plans for new Tom Patterson theatre

At a community meeting Tuesday night, Stratford Festival unveiled its plans to replace the current Tom Patterson theatre, a former curling rink, with a design inspired by the Avon River that runs along the downtown.
The new theatre design is by Siamak Hariri, an architect with the Toronto-based firm Hariri Pontarini. It will feature glass pane windows that are 75 centimetres wide and six-and-a-third meters high with thin, wide bronze mullions between them. (Stratford Festival)

Stratford Festival has unveiled the design for its proposed new Tom Patterson theatre, which would replace the current building — a retrofitted curling rink. 

The building design comes from the mind of Siamak Hariri, of the Toronto-based architecture firm Hariri Pontarini, and is inspired by the Avon River, which runs in front of the building.

"Siamak Hariri really was inspired by the idea that this building is right beside the water," Antoni Cimolino, the festival's artistic director, told CBC News. 

"He thought about what happens when water flows along an embankment, how does it create those eddies and those places where fish congregate," Cimolino said. "It will undulate all the way across, forming different rooms, like the forum room and the lab space for students and, of course, the public lobbies and a bar overlooking the water."

The forum room and lab space are new additions to the Tom Patterson theatre, which has reached the end of its lifespan, according to engineers hired by the festival. 

It has become a much-loved theatre, but it is woefully inadequate for the caliber of performance and experience our patrons have come to expect.- Stratford Festival executive director Anita Gaffney

"The Stratford Festival began leasing the current Tom Patterson Theatre almost 45 years ago," said executive director Anita Gaffney in a news release, which cited insufficient space backstage and uncomfortable seating as some of the reasons it needs to rebuild. 

"It has become a much-loved theatre, but it is woefully inadequate for the caliber of performance and experience our patrons have come to expect," Gaffney said. "As the building is in a fragile state, renovation is not an option."

The estimated cost of the new theatre is $60 million, one-third of which has already been funded by the Province of Ontario.
Over the years, the Tom Patterson Theatre has served as a curling rink, badminton court, community centre and a playhouse. (Stratford Festival)

Theatre uses community centre

The theatre is currently housed in the city-owned Kiwanis Community Centre.

There has been some concern over what will happen to organizations like the Stratford Lakeside Active Adults Association, which is also based out of the community centre. 

Cimolino said the festival has taken that into account in the new theatre's design and included in the plans is space to accommodate the seniors groups that currently use other parts of the building. 

But he said the association might be better suited in a community hub, which is being planned for the old rail repair shops in downtown Stratford.

The Cooper Block, as it's known, is still in the planning stages. The city held its first open house for its master plan on June 10. 

Since the Kiwanis Community Centre is city-owned, the festival still has to wait for the go-ahead from the municipality before any construction can begin. 

If that goes according to plan, construction would begin this fall with the hope of being open for Stratford Festival's 2019 season. 

More stories from Stratford Festival:


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.