Branksome Hall Innovation and Studio Theatre
Client : Branksome Hall
Area : 30,000 sf
Program : Audio/Editing Booth, Design Space, Steam Studio, Virtual Reality Lab, Robotics Lab, Machine Shop, Media Teaching Studio, Ideation Garage , Studio, Media Vestibule, Pitch Space, Teacher Workspace, Student Hub, Meeting Spaces
Associated Architects : Ennead Architects
When complete, the Branksome Hall Innovation Centre and Studio Theatre will serve as the primary driver for the school’s overall innovation agenda—which encourages every student and employee of the school to develop the mindset of an innovator. The structure will be a physical space for leading-edge technology and the teaching tools essential to developing and delivering a rich interdisciplinary curriculum to Branksome Hall’s students, as well as a hub for on-campus collaboration and inspiration.
Planned for a central location on the East Campus of Branksome Hall, an International Baccalaureate school for girls in Toronto, the Centre replaces the existing Performing Arts building—a predominantly windowless red-brick block initially constructed as a gymnasium—and will connect directly to the MJMA-designed glazed pedestrian bridge that knits the two halves of the campus together.
The exterior palette of the three-storey, 3,000-square-metre Centre is carefully considered to form an aesthetic bridge from the brick and stone of the surrounding historic residential and institutional architecture (including the original 1879 structure just steps away) to the modern architecture of the new Athletics & Wellness Centre—as well as to speak to its own future-focused programming. Its transparent street-side façade both permits sightlines to the heritage structure and speaks to the activities unfolding within.
Submerged below grade to match the height of the Centre’s new construction to the adjacent Heritage House, the first sunken storey features fabrication shops and design spaces which connects to an open lobby space serving as the central gathering “Pitch Space” area; here, stadium seating serves both formal presentations and casual daily hangouts. The Theatre floats half a storey above grade to maximize daylight for when the space is used as a classroom, conference centre, and flexible black box for innovative pursuits. The entirety of the building is designed with adaptability in mind with flexibly programmed space, including VR, robotics and 3D-printing labs, and an accelerator hub; on the top floor, a large STEAM Studio looks out over a green roof and Branksome’s West Campus beyond.