8 years ago

Volume 17 Issue 9 - June 2012

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The City Room at the

The City Room at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto.MUSICALFRAMEWORKSAN INTERVIEW WITH ARCHITECT JACK DIAMONDby Pamela Margles“You know … the problems withsketches on napkins. You shouldwipe your mouth after the mealand throw the napkin away.”When you head down to David Pecaut Square for thisyear’s Luminato festival you will notice somethingnew —and altogether different. An immense blue ribbonwill sweep overhead from one end of the square tothe other. Along its course it will wind around the stageand make its way past a group of balletic windsocks.After the square was renamed last year in memoryof the co-founder of the festival, it was officiallydesignated as the festival ub. Thus inspired,Luminato inaugurated a program of architecturalinstallations in the square. The architect JackDiamond, of Diamond Schmitt Architects, wasselected to create this initial design, which is being called Windscape.Diamond is best known to Toronto-area music lovers as the architectof the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. It’s been thehome of the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet sinceits unveiling in 2006 with Wagner’s Ring cycle. Diamond has designedbuildings across Canada, the U.S. and around the world for all sorts ofuses, from academic and medical institutions to the Corus Quay buildingon the Toronto waterfront. But it’s his innovative performing artscentres that I wanted to talk to him about. His New Mariinsky Theatreis about to open in St. Petersburg, Russia, and last fall the MontrealSymphony debuted in their new hall, La Maison Symphonique deMontréal. Then there are the Esplanade Arts and Heritage Centrein Medicine Hat, Alberta, the Burlington Performing Arts Centre inBurlington, Ontario, and Sidney Harman Hall in Washington, D.C.,just to name a few of his most recent projects.Diamond was born in 1932 in Piet Retief, South Africa. After graduatework at Oxford, he studied with the legendary Louis Kahn at theUniversity of Pennsylvania. Diamond came to Toronto in 1964 to directthe new Master of Architecture program at the University of Toronto’sarchitecture school, started his own firm, then partnered with DonaldSchmitt in 1989 to form Diamond Schmitt Architects.I interviewed Diamond in April at the officesof Diamond Schmitt Architects in the Queen-Spadina area of downtown Toronto. On theoutside, the red-brick heritage building lookstraditional. Inside, the ultra-contemporary officesare full of light and pulsing with activity,with open work spaces and glass walls. For me,this interview represented a broader approach to the experience ofattending a concert or opera than offered by the performers, composers,conductors and directors I usually interview. It turned out to beall the more rewarding since Diamond was so eloquent, passionateabout what he was doing, and delightfully candid.We began by talking about Windscape.Jack Diamond: The whole idea of Luminato is to have art transformthe city emotionally, intellectually and artistically —for people to experiencethe city in a much more intense and different way. So the ideafor Windscape was to transform David Pecaut Square —the nucleus ofLuminato —just as Luminato transforms the city.How do you transform this space without putting up walls or barriers?The way we’ve done it is to have a great blue banner runningthrough the space. But the banner is not enveloping the space — it’senhancing it by defining the boundaries of the public space. Our eyesare naturally attracted to movement. Second-hand car dealers know8 June 1 – July 7, 2012

MICHael COOPer; DIAMOnd SCHmiTT ARCHITECTSthat, and that’s why they’ve got whirlygigs all over. Soit will be animated by wind — natural and artificial. Wehave some big fans.How will the banner interact with the concerts thatare being presented on the stage?Because Luminato is offering music, dance, drama, allof that, what we are trying to do here is create a senseof their convergence. To reinforce that, we’ve invitedcomposers and choreographers to control the movementof the banner with light and sound. So architecture willbring them all together here.Does Windscape represent a new direction for you?Perhaps …I’m thinking along the lines of Christo’s largescaleinstallations.This is not a Christo. What Christo does is to envelopsomething and use it as an armature for his stuff. This isnot enveloping the square —it’s enhancing and illuminatingit, making people aware of the space in a way theyhadn’t thought about before.Would you, for instance, design sets for opera?I would love to design a set. A very long time ago, whenI was a student, I designed sets for student productions. Itwas fun. One was for an annual pantomime the school ofarchitecture put on, and there was also one for an amateurtheatrical.When you talk about the way Windscape illuminates thecity, does that relate to the way the huge glass façade ofthe Four Seasons Centre in Toronto illuminates the city?That’s somewhat different. When you are inside, youdo have a new view of the city. But what we’ve donethere is to dissolve the external wall, so the public areasinside are extensions of the city’s public areas. The sidewalkin front of the opera house goesright into the room. We enclose it withglass so that it is climate-controlled, butit is entirely transparent to the street.Then the city offers a different experience—it’s framed.Yet it’s the opposite of the traditionalopera house, which you enter througha door in a very solid wall. In a way thatwas very elitist. This is easy to enter, andaccessible. It’s not intimidating.With all that going on, how do youkeepthe focus on what’s on stage — thereason people are there?Inside, there is an opaque wall, andwhen you cross through it you are in anotherworld in which the city is excluded. It’s the world of opera andballet. It’s where disbelief is suspended, where, in fact, you have enteredinto the realm of the artists’ creations. It’s a very different world, andthe architecture is very much a reflection of that. There’s a dramaticcontrast betweenthe transparent rectilinear shapes and straight lines ofthe public spaces and the opaque, curvilinear shapes of the internallyfocusedbuilding inside.How does the fact that there is an audience involved affect the basicdesign of the opera hall?With an Italian horseshoe-shaped hall [like the Four Seasons Centre]you always have a sense of the audience. People are lining the walls,and containing the building. During the performance you can see andhear them react as you do —it’s enhanced by the sense of community.You are not alone in that room. That’s why the architectural form of theenveloping horseshoeis very good for the audience.What about the performers?It’s even better for the performers because they have really close contact.They are being embraced by the audience. And they are consciousof the audience. There is an enveloping —in fact in many concert hallswhen the choir is not there people sit behind the stage and surroundthe orchestra.June 1 – July 7, 9

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