On your next visit to the National Arts Centre you will notice a beautiful burgundy and gold plaque on the wall outside the Box Office. The plaque designates the NAC building as a National Historic Site. It reads:
“Constructed to designs by Fred Lebensold, the National Arts Centre (NAC) opened in 1969, offering state-of-the-art performing spaces and technology in its main venues, especially Southam Hall. Its overall design, particularly its integration into the urban setting, dramatic succession of interior spaces, and incorporation of contemporary works of art, make it an outstanding performing arts centre. Hailed as a national institution by former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, the NAC illustrates the positive impact of federal support on the performing arts in the second half of the 20th century.”
The plaque was recently unveiled during a special NAC ceremony by Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent and members of Parks Canada’s Historic Sites and Monuments Board. This National Historic Site designation confirms that, after almost 45 years of existence, the NAC has passed the true test of good design.
Of course, not everyone agrees, including the critic many years ago who called the NAC building “the cardboard boxes the Chateau Laurier came in.” Ouch! But as NAC Foundation CEO Jayne Watson stated at the unveiling ceremony, the NAC building is not as austere as some would believe:
“This is a building designed to protect the spoken word, the musical note and the dance from the noise and intrusions of the outside world,” said Ms. Watson. “Fred Lebensold’s design belies the nature of this world within. It is a separate, even mysterious place. The building has a timeless quality. People will always come here. It will last!”
Fred Lebensold said it best way back in 1969:
“The Centre is not a shrine. It’s a setting for people. It’s a theatre – and theatre is life.”