Yesterday, the non-profit charitable corporation which operates Roy Thomson Hall and Massey Hall in Downtown Toronto, announced more details associated with the next phase of revitalization at Massey Hall. The venerable performance venue is being restored, retrofitted, and expanded in a seven-year long project. Phase one has created new basement space to the south, while the next steps will include a new tower to the south, and the complete renewal of the auditorium from seats to stained glass.

Massey Hall Restoration and Expansion, Toronto, KPMB ArchitectsThe restored and expanded Massey Hall, image by Norm Li for KPMB Architects

The legendary music venue, a National Historic Site which continues to operate for the moment, will close for a couple of years starting in July 2018. The aim is to update the technology and the creature comforts required by an up-to-date facility, while also returning the building to the grandeur that it opened with but which it has lost, bit by bit, over the years. KPMB Architects is leading the revitalization with founding parter Marianne McKenna in charge of the design; “We will retain the qualities that make Massey Hall such a unique and vibrant performance space while complementing this treasured heritage venue with new spaces that will extend the role of the hall as a creative cultural hub. The revitalized Massey Hall will offer educational opportunities and additional performance venues to host events and support new Canadian talent well into the future.” 

Massey Hall Restoration and Expansion, Toronto, KPMB ArchitectsThe new 500-seat performance space in Massey Hall's south tower addition, image by Norm Li for KPMB Architects 

One of the two new performance spaces, a 250 to 500-seat theatre in the south tower, is included in new renderings. This flexible two-storey space on the fourth floor will feature a rear wall of windows facing west. Pictured as a backdrop to the performers above is the dramatically lit dome of the 1905-built Bank of Toronto building on Yonge Street. Another new performance space will be a stage added into the intimate Centuries bar in the space below the hall. The two new spaces are meant to offer shows by groups which cannot yet fill the main hall, but which are still honing their shows or building their audience. Toronto has lost several smaller performances spaces over the last few years to redevelopment and increasing property taxes, so Massey Hall's new spaces will go a ways to replacing the lost venues.

Massey Hall Restoration and Expansion, Toronto, KPMB ArchitectsRevitalized interior of Massey Hall, image by Norm Li for KPMB Architects

In the hall itself, the walls will be repainted to revive the feeling when the Moorish Revival interior first opened in 1894, stained glass windows (which have been covered up for decades) will be removed, restored, and reintroduced, acoustic elements will be added to better equip the Hall for amplified music while retaining the space's legendary acoustical warmth, digital technology will make the lighting, amplification, and recording of shows much better and easier… but the biggest changes are coming to seats and amenities.

All of the seats and seating arrangements are being upgraded. Comfortable, back-supporting, upholstered, padded seats will be introduced throughout the balcony and gallery levels, while at ground level, the orchestra seating will be mounted on a moveable rack system that can be folded back to allow for standing room audiences when the act begs for a crowd that wants to dance. Around the perimeter of the main floor, a parterre will be built for permanent seats, placing parsons there somewhat above the heads of those choosing the floor.

Massey Hall Restoration and Expansion, Toronto, KPMB ArchitectsNew passerelle attached to the restored exterior of Massey Hall, image by Norm Li for KPMB Architects

Currently at Massey Hall, when it's time for the intermission, patrons end up in long lines on the stairs heading for the bar and washrooms located on the lower levels, but the expansion of the building will make several improvements in this regard. Hung from the masonry walls of the building will be passerelles, glass-sided spaces to connect the balcony and gallery floors to new bars and washrooms in the south tower, while also functioning as places to stretch your legs and converse with friends while the act rests up for their second set. The passerelles will also be connected to new elevators, making every level of Massey Hall fully accessible.

Also planned for the south tower are new offices, rehearsal spaces, spaces for the performers, and even Massey Hall's first modern loading dock.

Massey Hall's website has been extensively updated and now offers in-depth information about the revitalization plans. You'll find two editions of 'Shine A Light', fact-packed magazines detailing all of the plans, you'll find videos covering aspects of the ongoing work, and much more to read and look at. Of course, Massey Hall is also fundraising as part of its renewal, so if you want to contribute to this historic building's return to prominence, you'll find how to do so there.

In our database file for the project, linked below, you will find many more renderings and other information about the Hall. To get in on the conversation, visit our associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.