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Massey Hall Revitalization Earns Industry Praise

interior of Massey hall venue after the revitalization

Stained glass windows and the iconic Art Deco lobby remain key features of the 128-year-old concert hall

By Joseph Cicerone

Since its reopening in November of 2021, this iconic concert hall has welcomed hundreds of acts and thousands of visitors into its newly restored quarters. Maintaining its role as heritage consultant, local architectural firm GBCA worked closely with lead architects KPMB on the $184 million Massey Hall Revitalization – a process that took three years.

One year later, and the efforts of the firm to preserve the performance venue have been recognized by architectural associations across all jurisdictions—honoured with the Award of Excellence (Conservation – Architecture) by the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals, the Special Jury Award by the Architecture Conservancy of Ontario and the 2022 Crafts and Trades Award by Heritage Toronto.

exterior of Massey Hall venue in Toronto
Massey Hall venue in Toronto. Photography by Tom Arban

“We are truly grateful for the recognition,” says Christopher Borgal, President and Senior Principal at GBCA. “For us, what mattered most in the Massey Hall revitalization was striking the right balance between preserving Massey Hall’s heritage fabric, while making room for it to be modernized.”

architectural restoration part of Massey Hall renovation
Photography by Jag Gundu

Along with much needed improvements to the Massey Hall structure’s decorative plaster ceiling and balcony seating, key heritage features of were restored to conserve the site’s character-defining elements. Upon granting the Award of Excellence (Conservation – Architecture), the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals noted the significance of GBCA’s strategy and its historic understanding of Massey Hall and goal of heritage restoration as opposed to replacement.

stained glass windows work during Massey Hall renovation
Photography by Salina Kassam

Nearly 100 Art Nouveau-styled stained glass windows that had been blocked off over the years were uncovered, restored offsite and reinstalled—including those depicting 12 portraits of famous composers on the ground floor.

1933 Glass windows at the Toronto venue
Photography by Jag Gundu

Performers of Massey Hall can now choose to let light shine in through the windows or close the mechanical blinds for a moodier atmosphere.

art deco lobby
Photography by Salina Kassam

When it came to Massey Hall’s lobby, which underwent a complete Art Deco-style renovation in the 1930s, all its elements were preserved and maintained, despite visual inconsistencies with the Hall’s Victorian interior. Be it the terrazzo flooring, the marble surrounds, the ceilings or the walls, each heritage element added a layer of history to the Hall and was thus preserved.

Massey Hall Venue in Toronto
Photography by Jag Gundu

On the Hall’s Palladian exterior, the fire escapes, which were part of the original design, were removed only to reveal more important heritage elements that lay underneath. The red Don Valley bricks were repaired and window openings were altered, while the iconic mid-century neon sign reading ‘Massey Hall’ was repaired and reinstalled—asserting a lively presence to the iconic site.

“We are delighted for the widespread acclaim that GBCA, and the local skilled artisans who worked alongside them, have received in restoring the beauty of the original hall,” says Grant Troop, Vice President of Operations at The Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall. “The entire design and construction team shares in this praise for respecting the architecture of the original hall, while at the same time modernizing the way it connects with patrons.”

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