Meridian Hall, 1 Front Street East, Toronto, ON

Meridian Hall, 1 Front Street East, Toronto, ON

Meridian Hall, 1 Front Street East, Toronto, ON

Excerpt from Wikipedia:

Meridian Hall is a major performing arts venue in Toronto, Ontario, and it is the country’s largest soft-seat theatre.[1] The facility was constructed for the City of Toronto municipal government and is currently managed by TO Live, an arms-length agency and registered charity created by the city. Located at 1 Front Street East, the venue opened as the O’Keefe Centre on October 1, 1960. From 1996 to 2007, the building was known as the Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts. From 2007 to 2019, it was known as the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts. On September 15, 2019, it was re-branded as Meridian Hall.

In 2008, the City of Toronto designated the theatre a heritage building. That year, it also underwent renovations to restore its iconic features such as the marquee canopy and York Wilson’s lobby mural, The Seven Lively Arts. Restoration of the wood, brass and marble that were hallmarks of the original facility was undertaken, along with audience seating, flooring upgrades, new washrooms and reconfigured lobby spaces. Following two years of renovations and restoration work, the building reopened its doors on October 1, 2010, fifty years to the date of the first opening night performance.

The Centre was built on land formerly occupied by a series of commercial buildings, including the Canadian Consolidated Rubber Company, and previously it was the site of the Great Western Railway Terminal (later the Toronto Wholesale Fruit Market).

The idea for a performing arts centre that could serve the needs of an increasingly dynamic city predates the building’s opening by almost 20 years. In the mid-1940s, Nathan Phillips issued a challenge to Toronto industrialists to underwrite the cost of a multipurpose centre for theatre, music and dance. Response to Phillips’ challenge was not immediate. E.P. Taylor, the racehorse-loving head of Canadian Breweries, which owned O’Keefe Brewing, offered in early 1955 to build a performing arts centre that would not only serve the needs of local institutions but increase the diversity of entertainment options available in Toronto. Toronto City Council immediately accepted the proposal in principle, but not until 1958 was the project finally approved to be built. Among others, United Church spokesmen opposed the idea that money from the sale of beer would be used for community development. Taylor assigned one of his key executives, Hugh Walker, to oversee building what was to be known, during its first 36 years, as the O’Keefe Centre.

The O’Keefe Centre opened on October 1, 1960, with a red-carpet gala. The first production was Alexander H. Cohen’s production of the pre-Broadway premiere of Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot, starring Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet.

Like The National Ballet, The Canadian Opera Company made the Centre its home stage, from as early as 1961 to 2006.

In early February 1996, the facility was renamed the Hummingbird Centre in recognition of a major gift from a Canadian software company, Hummingbird Communications Ltd. The $5-million donation allowed the Centre to undertake a number of capital improvements and repairs, including the installation of an elevator and an acoustic reinforcement system for the auditorium. When the Ballet and Opera moved to the Four Seasons Centre in 2006, it left a hole in the theatre’s schedule. At this point, programming shifted to a multicultural schedule by include more content appealing to Toronto’s many ethnic diasporas.

On 21 January 2019, the City of Toronto announced a C$30.75 million 15-year partnership with Meridian Credit Union, re-branding the Sony Centre into Meridian Hall, and the Toronto Centre for the Arts into the Meridian Arts Centre. The arts venues formally adopted their new names on September 15, 2019.

Designed by Peter Dickinson, the performing arts venue is a distinctive building and an example of a mid-twentieth century modern performing arts venue. It is four storeys high and is broken up into three main forms: the entrance block, auditorium and fly tower. The central form of the building is highly symmetrical with an open floor plan. Structurally, the performing arts venue is not over complicated and uses steel trusses and concrete to hold the majority of the building together. In addition to the structure, the performing arts venue’s auditorium houses a very sophisticated acoustic system, which gives the audience the sense that the sound is surrounding them.

When it comes to materiality, the majority of the original materials are still in the building today. Materials used include: Alabama limestone, glazing, granite, copper, bronze, Carrara marble, carpet, cherry plywood panels and Brazilian rosewood. The performing arts venue is very diverse in its range of materials and employs them in such a way that they are not overshadowed by the unique forms of the building.

The interior also features a grand double-height foyer with coffered ceilings, a 30 metres (98 ft) wide mural by the famous Toronto-born artist York Wilson, cantilevered stairs, polished bronze auditorium doors, and a fan-shaped auditorium with a curving balcony.

Posted by Snuffy on 2022-12-29 22:17:58

Tagged: , Meridian Hall , 1 Front Street East , Toronto , Ontario , Canada

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