The renewed National Arts Centre (NAC) is Canada’s Centennial gift to the nation. Located on a designated historic site in Ottawa, NAC’s original, Brutalist building is cited as one of the top 500 Canadian landmarks by the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada. It is composed of a cluster of hexagonal masses, containing four theatres—wrapped by terraces that are oriented to the Rideau Canal and the city beyond.
Informed by the past, and looking towards a more integrated future, the architectural transformation of NAC, completed in 2017, is a reflection of today’s Canadian values: inclusivity, transparency, and connectivity. The addition is comprised of three wings of public amenity, community gathering spaces, and a marquee tower. The original heavy precast concrete sits in contrast with a new contemporary material palette. An expression of transparency and inclusion, the new NAC builds on the original hexagonal language, but is now glazed, luminous, and inviting. A glass and steel marquee tower re-orients the building towards the city with a new entrance, activating the urban surrounding and visually connecting to the Confederation Square, the Peace Tower, and Parliament Hill. This new hexagonal glazed volume is equipped with LED ‘scrims’ showcasing Canadian artistic content, and re-establishing NAC as a truly national arts centre.
Inside, strategic renovations transform the interior spaces, improving patron experience, acoustics, accessibility, infrastructure, and audience interaction. These include the complete rejuvenation of Southam Hall—NAC’s largest auditorium.
Together, the architectural interventions rejuvenate the NAC, establishing it as a contemporary, connected institution that celebrates Canada’s arts and culture while leading the nation into an integrated future.