Jack Diamond to design Montreal concert hall

Toronto architect Jack Diamond, who designed the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto, will design a new concert hall for Montreal.

Toronto architect Jack Diamond, who designed the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto, will help design a new concert hall for Montreal.

The Quebec government announced Thursday that a consortium involving Diamond + Schmitt of Toronto and Montreal's SNC-Lavalin has been chosen to build the $267-million building.

The group won the contract, which includes a 1,900-seat hall, in an international design competition.

The Montreal Symphony Orchestra has been performing since 1963 in multi-purpose facility Salle Wilfrid Laurier in Place des Arts.

If all goes as planned it will have a new home, built as a dedicated concert hall, by 2011.

Diamond, a music lover, said he's not interested in splashy architecture. Instead, he is concerned with the sound of the music inside the hall — and whether the building is environmentally and technically functional.   

"Of course the kernel — the prime one being audience and performers have to have a connection — the performers have to be able to hear themselves play — you'd be surprised how few halls that's true — and obviously the acoustics, so that the last seat in the hall has the same density of sound as the front rows," Diamond told CBC News.

He would not release details of the design proposal, saying it is too early in the process.

But he said he would be working with Robert Essert, an acoustics expert who collaborated with him on the Four Seasons Centre, which has been praised for its fine acoustics and sight lines.

Diamond + Schmitt also designed the Sidney Harman Hall in Washington, D.C., and is redesigning the Banff Centre for the Arts in Alberta.

The MSO Concert Hall is being designed, managed and financed by a consortium that will lease the building back to the public sector and manage and maintain the building for 30 years.

In addition to SNC-Lavalin and Diamond + Schmitt, the group includes Aedifica, a Montreal architectural firm, Aecon, an infrastructure contractor, Solotech, a lighting supplier and Gala Systems, specializing in theatrical machinery.

The private sector involvement, and the consortium's commitment to manage the building for the next 30 years, should lead to better design, Diamond said.

"I mean if you're managing a proposal and you're responsible for the cost of its maintenance, you're going to see to it that you've got good equipment and a pretty efficient building," he said.

The building is to be built next to Place des Arts at the corner of Maisonneuve and St-Urbain.

Diamond said he starts his design process by studying the location and streetscape.

"You start with several things — No. 1, the context, the very particular context of the plaza, the parking garage, then the classic Montreal street —St-Urbain is an urban form — all these are absolutely critical factors, as well as the connection to the street and to the subway system…. All of that is contextual along with the climate," he said.