After long delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Stratford Festival’s highly-anticipated Tom Patterson Theatre opened in June 2022. The new $72-million theatre is named for the founder of the Festival and sits on the site of the former dance hall-turned-theatre, which had been a Stratford Festival venue since the 1970s. Hariri Pontarini Architects, in creating the new building, strove to maintain some of the intimacy of the old space while elevating the experience to embody the Stratford Festival’s world-class theatre experience.
Situated along the edge of the Avon River, the curved exterior of the building mimics the river’s shape. The exterior is blanketed in a veil of Spanish bronze beams and Italian glass. From the inside, the building offers a wide vista of the river. The building’s many reception spaces are designed for visitors to congregate, inviting them to linger and take in the view. This increased engagement with the audience is a hallmark of the Stratford Festival’s evolution over the last 50 years, and the theatre is designed to take the Festival into the next 50.
The performance space is state-of-the-art, with a trap door that allows for a multitude of staging possibilities, silent LED lights and a concealed acoustical amplification system that transforms even quiet moments on the stage into a crystal clear auditory experience for all members of the audience. The trap room below the stage is a full story tall, allowing actors and elaborate props to appear and disappear easily. Large, east-facing rehearsal spaces also offer actors an airy and beautiful workspace.
Our aim was to create a theatre venue where visitors feel that every bit is well designed and carefully crafted. All of the little details are elegant and unique: the placement and size of signs, the material choice (mostly bronze to suit the building’s other elements) and the signage design, which features lettering that is deeper than usual and a recessed front panel on the main entrance sign. At the back of the building, long pegs fasten letters to the wall to create a dimensional effect and allow vines to grow up behind the sign.
The prominence of the donor wall reflects the importance of donor contributions in making this new theatre a reality. Names are aligned along the outer drum of the theatre hall, located at the main entrance. To address the fabrication and wall-mounting challenges posed by the curvature of the surface, we set each name on a pre-curved railing; this solution reduces the drill points dramatically. Varying name sizes and hues correspond to different levels of contribution.
Everything about the space was designed to prepare theatre-goers for the performance – to elevate their expectations and heighten their senses. We worked intensively with the architects, client and fabricators to achieve this elevated look and feel. From donor recognition plaques and row signage to wayfinding and building identification, we placed the signs carefully to avoid clutter and allow visitors to focus on the experience of going to the theatre.
Read more about the Tom Patterson Theatre.
Photography by Karl Hipolito and Scott Norsworthy