Enhancement Project (2002)

On November 16, 2000, The Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall unveiled plans for the Roy Thomson Hall Enhancement Project 2002, the result of more than five years of careful study and consultation.

The $24 million project stretched over two years and included a 22-week shutdown of the auditorium, from March 11 to August 9, 2002.

Intended primarily to enhance the acoustical performance of the auditorium, the project also included modifications to improve comfort levels for patrons as well as increase the auditorium's versatility in presenting a wider range of events.

The project was comprised of the following interrelated components:

Reshaping and reducing the interior volume

The large interior volume of Roy Thomson Hall's auditorium, which was one million cubic feet, was reduced by 13.5%, making it comparable with the volume of other premier concert halls around the world, including Carnegie Hall in New York City.

To accomplish this, massive wooden bulkheads were constructed above the balcony level in the auditorium's upper chamber on the side and rear walls, pulling in the walls by as much as 15 feet at some points.

The bulkheads, which were finished in Canadian hardwood Maple and designed to complement existing elements of the auditorium, also altered the interior shape of the auditorium. The completed room is narrower and more rectangular, or "shoe-box" shaped, which has proven to be acoustically superior to the auditorium's current oval shape.

The use of wood provides a better reflective surface for sound and adds a visual sense of warmth to the auditorium. Canadian hardwood Maple was also used to cover the surfaces of the new acoustic canopies, the auditorium flooring and the rebuilt stage floor.

Installation of acoustic canopies

The installation of two adjustable acoustic canopies, one circular and one crescent-shaped, replaced the existing oculus and the hanging sound reflectors. The canopies, which have the same Canadian Maple wood finish as the bulkheads, now provide better on-stage communication among musicians and provide audience members seated in all parts of the auditorium a more accurate representation of the performance taking place on stage.

The two canopies are suspended over the house and stage and can be moved up and down independently according to the acoustical requirement of the performance.

The circular canopy is arranged in a spectacular "sunburst" design resembling a colossal chandelier, and is suspended towards the centre of the auditorium. Its weight is 38 tons (76,000 lbs.) and has a moveable range of 30 to 50 feet for performance sittings - lowered to create more intimacy for a song recital and raised for full orchestra and chorus.

The crescent-shaped canopy, positioned over the stage area, can be lowered as far as the choir loft and has a weight of 10.5 tons (21,000 lbs.).

Central Speaker

The existing suspended speaker cluster, used for amplified performances, is repositioned into the centre of the circular canopy and can be retracted above the canopy when not in use.

Installation of acoustic banners

Retractable sound absorbent banners are incorporated directly into the new wooden bulkheads around the auditorium's perimeter. The banners, which can be raised and lowered automatically to allow for customized performance settings, have the capacity to control and dampen reverberation during electronically amplified events.

Reconfiguration of main floor seating

The long rows of continental seating, which extend across the entire width of the auditorium on the main floor, were reconfigured to include two interior access aisles as well as box and parterre (raised) seating.

The two new aisles created shorter rows making it easier for patrons to access seats and allow for a more comfortable flow of traffic. The aisles also rendered the auditorium more flexible and better suited to a wider variety of events.

The front of the boxes serve the same acoustical function as the bulkheads in the upper chamber, bringing in the sides of the auditorium and creating reflective surfaces closer to main floor patrons.

New and extended stage floor

The stage floor was rebuilt to make it more resonant and extended into the house by three feet. It has the same Canadian Maple wood finish as the canopies and bulkheads.

Installation of wood flooring and seat refurbishing

All existing carpeting throughout the auditorium was replaced by sound-reflective Canadian hardwood flooring.

All the seats in the auditorium were refurbished. There are also more transfer seats (an auditorium chair with at least one moveable arm that allows east patron access).

Isolation of building systems and acoustical sealing of auditorium

Although this was the least visible component of the project, this work was crucial to the overall success of the enhancement project.

The operation of mechanical systems, including heating, ventilation, lighting and air conditioning, were isolated from the building structure. Structural modifications were made to ensure that sound from the lobbies and the physical plant is inaudible inside the auditorium.