Brock University’s Board of Trustees is hiring a familiar face to design the home of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts at a new facility in downtown St. Catharines.
The Canadian firm Diamond and Schmitt Architects, which has designed concert halls around the world as well as several buildings at Brock, was confirmed today by the Board as architect for the downtown project. It had been recommended by a sub-committee that had assessed five shortlisted firms.
The Walker School is part of a dynamic hillside arts complex that — alongside a new performing arts centre being built by the City of St. Catharines — will transform the city centre.
Earlier this week Diamond and Schmitt was also confirmed by city council as architect for the St. Catharines Performing Arts Centre, and today’s decision by the University trustees clears the way for design work to begin on both ambitious projects.
By supporting the City’s performing arts centre, repurposing a historic but empty textile mill and moving 500 students and faculty into the city centre, the Brock project will be a cultural and economic boost for a once-vibrant downtown that in recent decades has been in decline. It will also bring much-needed new space for the growing University.
Rudi Kroeker, chair of Brock’s Board of Trustees, called today’s decision a historic threshold for the University and for St. Catharines-Niagara.
“This illustrates how an entire community can benefit when people work together,” said Kroeker, “the University, the City, and the governments of Ontario and Canada.” The Ontario government is contributing $26.2 million for the Walker School, which has a construction budget of $39.6 million. The University will pay for its share with capital funds raised through the Campaign for a Bold New Brock.
The provincial and federal governments are jointly providing $36 million for the St. Catharines Performing Arts Centre.
Douglas Kneale, Dean of Brock’s Faculty of Humanities, said the new facility represents a massive leap forward for students and educators.
“The advances will benefit multiple departments across our Faculty,” said Kneale. “From both an academic and a creative point of view, these facilities will bring many new opportunities for creative intersections of dramatic arts, music and visual arts, not just intellectually but spatially and physically.”
Diamond and Schmitt has won more than 150 regional, national and international awards for design, including six Governor General Awards for Architecture. The firm has designed performing arts venues ranging in size from Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, the New Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia and Harman Center for the Arts in Washington, D.C.; to the Burlington Performing Arts Centre, Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts and The Esplanade Arts and Heritage Centre in Medicine Hat, Alta.
The firm’s earlier work at Brock includes Market Hall (opened 2010), the addition to Welch Hall (2010) and the Matheson Learning Commons (2007).
- “University selects architect for downtown arts school” | The Standard