National Arts Centre Architectural Rejuvenation

Structural Designer


Client Name

National Arts Centre


Ottawa, Canada

PCL Constructors

Diamond Schmitt Architects

StructureCraft Images: © Doublespace Photography


Canada’s most prestigious performing arts institution was transformed via a 6,000m² glass-clad extension. A coffered hybrid wood-steel roof draws inspiration from the ubiquitous triangular geometry of the existing building. The roof structure uses several hundred triangular glue-laminated wood coffers, all of the same unique shape but rotated differently and exposed to create a flowing artistic effect. The extremely tight construction schedule drove a fully pre-assembled and panellised structure, able to be erected with temporary waterproofing and integrated services pre-installed off-site, while maintaining unaffected theatre operations in the existing venue.

Judge's comment:

The creation of this new transparent and unifying extension has radically transformed a Brutalist era concrete campus and brought it into the 21st century. The design of the building was steered by the need to complete construction and fit out in just nine months, both built for, and opening on, the 150th birthday of Canada.

On entering the building, the eye is drawn up to the prefabricated coffered roof that soars over the new spaces, a unifying constant across the project that nestles neatly into the surrounding concrete forms and pays homage to the original design. The triangular roof coffers use tapered glulam members to form a gently undulating roof soffit, bringing to life the ubiquitous triangular grid that covers the site.

Careful attention to detailing enabled the pre-assembly of these coffers into longer modules off-site, along with the installation of sprinklers, lighting, acoustic treatment and theatre attachment points. This ensured a quick and quiet building process that allowed the existing buildings to remain open for business throughout.

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