Originally built as a Canada centennial project, the National Arts Centre (NAC) made another debut on July 1, 2017, when it revealed a $110.5 million rejuvenation just in time to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday.  

Built in the Brutalist architectural style — popularized in the 1950s and known for its concrete aesthetic — the NAC features more than 1,300 performances a year, sharing with audiences the best in music, theater and dance.  

Inside, we added 36,000 square feet of space, bringing the total area to almost 1.2 million square feet. A new two-level atrium wraps around one side of the complex, offering a mix of public spaces, lobbies and rentable rooms, including a major event space that offers sweeping views of downtown Ottawa and Parliament Hill. The update also provides improved accessibility and a west elevation expansion that incorporates the NAC’s renovated “Fourth Stage” performance space.  

The design features Canadian materials such as triangulated limestone floor tiles quarried in Ontario, hexagonal Douglas Fir wood ceiling coffers, and perforated, bronzed aluminum exterior fins and cladding.  

The NAC’s dramatic transformation included a new glass façade featuring the signature Kipnes Lantern, a 60-foot hexagonal tower of glass and steel positioned above the building’s main entrance. Transparent LED-lined glass panels illuminate images of upcoming performances at the NAC and promote others taking place on stages across the country.  

The NAC rejuvenation features large quantities of manufactured glulam (glue-laminated lumber) coffers throughout most of the public spaces. In collaboration with our design team and the specialist glulam contractor, we prefabricated the individual roof panels and then installed them onsite. Offsite assembly helped us ensure a higher quality product for the NAC and reduced the amount of time our team needed to work at heights. 

The NAC rejuvenation was the largest government investment in an architectural project to mark Canada 150. And in a truly royal reveal, Prince Charles attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony to draw the curtain on a refreshed theatrical space ready to entertain more than 1.2 million visitors a year.

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