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September 8, 2011

New Montreal Concert Hall opens

Diamond and Schmitt Architects with Aedifica Architects, and a team of acousticians and consultants have re-interpreted the rectangular ‘shoe-box’ theatre configuration with an intimate three-balcony, 1900-seat auditorium designed principally for symphonic use. The new home of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and other arts groups is an initiative of the Quebec Government and developed by Groupe immobilier Ovation, a subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin. Diamond and Schmitt Architects is a leading Canadianarchitectural practice, recognized for its award-winning portfolio of performing arts centres, academic and research buildings, commercial, residential and health care institutions.

Lead architect Jack Diamond created a dynamic sense of occasion for the concert-going experience. The hall is accessible from the street, from the plaza as well as the subway, and beckons with a double-height reception room, side lobbies and a strong visual sense of the activity within through extensive glazed curtainwall. “This transparency both respects the prime position of the hall at the terminus of a major artery and anticipates the contrast of entering the opaque auditorium,” says Diamond, Principal with Diamond and Schmitt Architects, whose portfolio of international performing arts projects includes the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto and the Mariinsky Theatre now underway in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The building expresses a reverence for sound where the gentle overlapping curves of the auditorium’s wood-lined walls extend above the roofline to reveal the same sculpted forms that shape the very musical dimension of the hall. “There is nothing arbitrary about the design; it is a true display of the architecture of sound,” says Diamond.

Design excellence extends to the details that ensure audience comfort, clear sightlines and supreme acoustics. The hall is a soundproof ‘box-within-a-box’ that is separated from the surrounding public lobbies and rehearsal rooms and rests on rubber and steel pads that inhibit unwanted vibration and noise from entering the room.

“It’s all about the musical experience,” adds Matthew Lella, Project Architect with Diamond and Schmitt. “A
monochromatic palette of colours creates a calm, cohesive and elegant environment in the hall to draw the
audience’s attention to natural, unamplified performances.”

Mr. Diamond, in collaboration with Aedifica and Cassavant Fréres, designed the striking array of organ pipes that grace the wall behind the stage. The result is a bold, confident composition, an asymmetry of exuberant diagonals, which – like the concert hall itself – is a contemporary expression of the fundamental forms that have served the best concert halls the world over.