Theatre company unveils design plans for historic Saint John courthouse | CBC News

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The St. John’s Theatre Company plans to add three more floors to the former county courthouse in King’s Square, while still retaining the architecture and features of many historic buildings.

The team announced the design plan for the nearly 200-year-old building on Friday afternoon.

New content will be added to the back of the website, leaving the most visible part of the iconic building along Sydney and King Street East basically unchanged. 

The chief architect of EXP Architects, Melissa Wakefield (Melissa Wakefield) said that although the design is modern, the new part incorporates certain architectural features of the existing building. 

It also created a larger new entrance and lobby from King Street East. The new part will also include new elevators and stairs. 

The old court where jury trials were held before 2013 will be converted into the main theater. 

Wakefield explained at the design conference that a floating mezzanine car will be created to increase the number of seats to 220, which was carried out through Zoom on Friday.  

She said: "The mezzanine is actually floating in the court space, suspended from the ceiling, so it will not affect all the elements that define the characters in the court, such as terracotta pillars and shapes," she said. 

Stephen Tobias, executive director of St. John’s Theatre Company, said the project has been underway for four years.

Tobias said the organization’s existing theaters on Princess Street are usually well booked and often not big enough. 

He said: "As programming has grown, we have also realized that there is a facility dead zone between the 100-seat BMO studio and the 900-seat Empire Theater." "This needs to be filled."

Tobias said the project will also allow multiple performances at the same time.

He said that the theater company first arrived in the province in 2016 and finally took over the ownership of the building in early March 2020. 

Tobias said that the pandemic "actually gave us the blessing of time." 

He said the team has the ability to strengthen the design and "adapt to the future." 

The final design plan will double the "existing footprint of the building".

The Sydney Street Courthouse was built between 1826 and 1829 and is a National Historic Site. 

The St. John’s City Council held meetings here until 1879. Recently, the building was used to settle the affairs of the Queen’s jury, including jury trials, but since the opening of the New St. John’s Court in 2013, the building has been vacant. 

Wakefield said it is known for its marble floors and unique free-standing round stone staircases, which will be preserved in the expansion and renovation works. 

However, the three-story building will contrast sharply with the classic stone exterior of the existing structure. 

Wakefield said: "This concept is what we call the classical shadow box, which produces a dynamic facade, which is the same as St. John has never seen before." 

"The resulting concept is an interesting, expressive facade that will illuminate like a light on a ceiling at night. Here, the customer is the actor in the curtain wall of a real-life theater, creating a street The huge shadow theater."

Tobias said that the entire project will take about two years to complete. However, what is unknown is when the project will begin. He said that this must first be reviewed by heritage and building regulations. 

Tobias said that the exact price of the project is still unclear, because these reviews may lead to design changes that may affect the total construction cost. 

In 2019, the federal government allocated 2.5 million Canadian dollars to the project through the Canadian Heritage Foundation and ACOA.

The price of the entire project was previously estimated at $7 million. 

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