Diamond Schmitt Architects
How does a building improve the life of a whole neighborhood? This was the challenge for the architects of Daniels Spectrum, a 58,000-square-foot cultural center at the heart of the Regent Park district in Toronto. The area, a previously blighted late 1940s public housing complex, is in the middle of a revitalization: Toronto Community Housing and Daniels Corporation, a private developer, are replacing the old apartment buildings for the tenants, and adding market-rate housing and community facilities.
Diamond Schmitt Architects designed the Spectrum, which is run by Artscape, a Toronto-based not-for-profit organization, to house seven local performing and visual arts groups, and the Centre for Social Innovation, an incubator for emerging enterprises. The building has a strong visual presence at the center of the neighborhood. Its facade features rainbow-hued stripes, derived from the flags of the world, that stand out against the otherwise restrained architecture.
The arts are very important to the residents here, according to lead architect Donald Schmitt, especially as their homes are being rebuilt. “Regent Park is the place where many recent immigrants live, and they bring their cultures with them,” he says. Music, in particular, has been knitting the community together, but had been performed in basements or in begged, borrowed, and found places.
Today the various arts groups share a lobby in the new building and access to Ada Slaight Hall, a 310-seat performance and event space that has been in great demand since opening in 2012: it was dark fewer than 10 nights during its first year. The architects brought their expertise and connections, employing the same theater consultant and acoustician that they worked with on their Mariinsky II Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia.
One tenant, the Regent Park School of Music, which used to operate out of a Victorian row house, now has soundproofed space with six teaching studios, and has increased its enrollment from 250 to over 1,000 students. Another, Native Earth Performing Arts, tripled its audience. But Daniels Spectrum and its tenants can claim a larger victory. They have been highly visible in local media, representing a new character for the area. “I think the project creates a sense of opportunity,” says Schmitt, “and shifts the discussion from poverty, crime, and economic struggles to something much greater.”
Architect: Diamond Schmitt Architects — Donald Schmitt, Jennifer Mallard, Joseph Troppmann
Client: Artscape/Daniels Corporation
Size: 58,000 square feet
Construction Cost: $18.5 million
Project Cost: $25 million
Completion date: September 2012
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Exterior cladding Metal Panels: Custom Aluminum Cladding System fabricated by Gage Metal
Roofing Built-up roofing: SBS Modified Bituminous Membrane with Electronic Leak Detection Other: Green Roof
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