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(2022 - Winter Issue)


The new Tom Patterson Theatre in Stratford, Ontario—which opened in May—is a highly anticipated addition to the Canadian cultural landscape. Designed by acclaimed architect Siamak Hariri, the theatre undeniably reveals a metamorphosis of Stratford Festival’s ambitions in this high bar. So high that the founding partner of Hariri Pontarini Architects has been bestowed the Governor General’s medal in architecture.

“Stratford Festival organizers wanted an exceptional building with new programs that would enhance the festival and this community for decades to come,” Hariri tells me in this exclusive sit-down interview this past summer from his state-of-the-art studio office in Toronto. “We sought to create an emotional experience through architecture that complements the magic of transcendent works of theatrical performance.”

Indeed. The theatre’s lustrous façade ebbs and flows in step to the town’s Avon River. The building is organic, as curvilinear forms dissolve from the structure to the panoramic garden and river views mesh together between indoors and the natural surroundings. In short, the building is luminous. It seems to dance or float upon the site.

German-born and educated at the University of Waterloo and Yale University, Hariri’s other influential projects include the Bahá’í Temple of South America in Santiago, Chile, the Royal Ontario Museum Welcome Project in Toronto, and many more.

DS: What were you thinking with the Tom Patterson Theatre project?

SH:  I come to solutions quickly and then I tinker around with an amazing team to develop them. But immediately, there were a few challenges. There was a road between the site and the river. By lifting the building seven feet, we argued, we were going to skip across the road. We talked a lot about the thrust of the stage. It’s where the actor is visible from all sides. It’s not like you’re in a presidium where you’re speaking straight out. We discussed this idea of a perfect classical shape theatre, which Patterson ended up with.

DS: Travel?

SH:  Nothing brings you closer to the human spirit than experiencing the diversity of expression in different parts of the world. In that sense, God is not stingy. Travelling creates a kind of aspirational emotion.

DS: The most moving experience?

SH:  As a child, I was taken to the Bahá’í Gardens in Israel. Perfection. Ever since I was a child, I became aware that the idea of excellence and aiming high, always the two, are one thing.

DS: The capacity of architecture to impact us?

SH:  Like a musician, they must finish a composition. If we lose this ability to speak about beauty, where are we?

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