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Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts


Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts
By Caterina Testa -
Rheinzink has participated in the project

When designing the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, Snøhetta architects took their cue from place and programme. The natural calm and serenity of the setting is a touchstone of the whole project.

Built where a former brewery once stood on the north-eastern shores of Canada’s Lake Ontario, the Centre - part of Queen’s University, Kingston - is informed by - and reflects back - the winter colours of lake and landscape. 

The complex, articulated programme has reconceived the historic 1830s Morton Brewery into a world-class performing arts centre, uniting under one roof the University School of Music, the Departments of Drama, Film and Media and a large Performance Hall.

Snøhetta’s role in meeting its university client’s brief was crucial in terms of rationalizing teaching spaces and offices, and delivering quality architecture to a building typology fraught with regulatory constraints.

To ensure the building functions as a real place of learning based on teacher-pupil exchange, the lecture rooms have been placed at the corners of the building while the offices are interspersed among the education spaces, thereby encouraging mingling of the different users. Students and visitors enter via an atrium overlooking the lake. Full-height glazing and a steel outer cladding extending inside along part of the ceiling and bringing reflections of the lake into the atrium create a continuum with the landscape outside.

The choice of outer materials mirrors the building’s singular connection with the lake in winter and the stone and wood of the former brewery. 

Glass and stainless steel façades seem to dematerialize in the snow and water. At the same time, the sleek smooth surfaces of the new building contrast to great effect with the rough, timeworn older sections. Inside, warm timber-lined interiors create a cosy protective environment from which...

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