Winnipeg Architecture Foundation

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Centennial Concert Hall

Address:555 Main Street
Use:Concert Hall
Original Use:Concert Hall
Constructed:1968
Architects:Associated Architects for the Manitoba Centennial Centre (Green Blankstein Russell; Moody Moore and Partners; Smith Carter Searle and Associates)
Firms:Associated Architects for the Manitoba Centennial Centre (Green Blankstein Russell; Moody Moore and Partners; Smith Carter Searle and Associates)
Tours:Part of the QR Code Tour

More Information

A centrepiece of the Manitoba Centennial Centre is the Centennial Concert Hall. This 23,506 square metre venue is the primary home of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. In a typical year, the symphony (established in 1947) plays over 80 concerts at the Hall for approximately 100,000 audience members. The building also hosts a number of other acts, including performances from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. The Concert Hall was opened 27 March 1968 by Governor General Roland Michener. The exterior design presents a balance of orthogonal lines and angles, glass and masonry, light cream and dark charcoal tones. The building’s coloration complements and parallels those of the Winnipeg City Hall across the street – which also features Tyndall stone and deep grey masonry.

Design Characteristics

  • As viewed from Main Street, the Concert Hall’s entry façade is a dramatic and compelling focal-point. This elevation is anchored on its north and south ends by two tall Tyndall stone towers which project above the roof-line. Perhaps the most distinctive element of the façade is the set of forty-five eyelid-like concrete window covers. These unique, sun-shading awnings, with their origami-like folds, are an example of the modernist exploitation of the plastic possibilities of concrete – here by means of linked sections of pre-cast material. Flanking this section are two enormous three-storey windows, which cast light upon the dramatic multi-level floating staircases inside. The entrance to the building is sheltered by a large five-section canopy built of a cream-toned concrete matching the awnings above. This detail is suspended by six simple columns which, given their dark tone and recessed placement, cause them to nearly vanish from sight and thus lend the heavy canopy a floating quality. Beyond the dramatic awnings, perhaps the most notable element of the Concert Hall’s front facade are the glass pyramidal forms which sit between segments of this canopy and whose sharply projecting shapes adds an energetic rhythm to the overall structure.
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  • The north and south sides of the Concert Hall – along the Steinkopf Gardens and Market Avenue – continue the main façade’s use of dark grey and cream toned materials. The ground level features large windows which link the interior corridors to the urban exterior. Pilasters continue from this level to the top of the building, holding between them two-storey windows cradled on their sides by Tyndall stone frames which angle inward. Near the rear of the building are repeated the tower-like forms which bookend the Main Street elevation; the angled roof-line here parallels that of the theatre itself. The back section of the building, which holds the stage and associated areas, is clad in large expanses of Tyndall stone and is capped with the hall’s striking, tan-coloured, angled roof.
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  • Accessed through a glazed vestibule, the grand entry hall features dark grey tiled floors which anchor a soaring multi-storey lobby. Rising dramatically at the north and south are four enormous, white, floating staircases. These connect the ground floor to the six theatre-entry corridors as well as a piano nobile level overlooking the central foyer. Suspended from the ceiling of this space hang three immense chandeliers; these are made of a profusion of metal threads holding large pieces of polished Norwegian crystal. The lower, outward-facing wall of the lobby bears a substantial ceramic mural by artist Greta Dale which depicts the arts of dance, music and drama. Two murals by artist Tony Tascona are also found at the west end of the orchestra level corridors. These works, which were selected by means of a national competition, are of painted aluminium – a technique the artist gained through his work as an electroplating technician. In addition, giant abstract wall hangings by prominent Canadian artists Kenneth Lochhead and Takao Tanabe are located at either end of the main lobby.
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  • Beyond the lobby the building is carpeted in deep red; the corridors are also complemented by distinctive undulating chestnut-toned wood walls, which hold curved entry portals. The theatre itself seats 2,305 and has a proscenium stage 24 metres wide, 12 metres deep and over 33 metres tall which can accommodate a full orchestra and a choir of 700. Beyond the large orchestra level, this space contains two balconies and two loges, all clad in white stucco. The plan of this performance hall is remarkable in its “Contintental” seating arrangement involving a lack of aisles and view-obscuring columns. Theatre consultant George C. Izenour, of New York contributed to the design of this space, and the acoustic engineering was by the firm of Bolt, Beranek & Newman Inc., also of New York. At the time of the Concert Hall’s construction, the acoustics were considered to be the finest of any such theatre in North America.

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