Young Center for the Performing Arts

Young Center for the Performing Arts

TorontoKuwabara Payne McKenna Blumerg ArchitectsSoulpepper Theater Co./George Brown College Theater SchoolAward of Excellence

Uniting a college drama department and a professional theater group under one roof is a double win: Students learn through close proximity to seasoned actors who, in turn, can benefit from the boundless enthusiasm of the young. In the case of Soulpepper Theater Co. and the George Brown College Theater School, which moved into a joint facility in January, 2006, there was a third bonus: The paying public wanted to spend time there, too. The vibrant, 24/7 atmosphere of the new venue, plus new space that allows the company to perform year-round, have proved profitable.

In its first full year in its new location, Soulpepper, which performs classical repertory, increased the number of its productions by 80%, and overall attendance rose 103%. Annual revenues doubled, to $6 million. In-house research conducted by Soulpepper found that 97% of theatergoers approved of the new design, which has been reflected in improved patron contributions—up 38% in the first year. George Brown, a community college, reported increased satisfaction from students and educators alike. Local businesses, art galleries, and restaurants have enjoyed increased revenues as well.

The space is the centerpiece of a larger urban-planning venture that aims to make Toronto's Distillery District into a cultural hub. (Notably, three of this year's 10 finalists are located in the city.) Architects KPMB had a budget of around $10 million to convert two former 19th century storage houses into teaching rooms, rehearsal spaces, and four separate performance venues. The result retains the original buildings' rough industrial elements while adding a warm interior ambiance.

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