Roy Thomson Hall – Modern Architecture & Rich Acoustics

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June 16, 1980 - Looking southeast toward the construction of Roy Thomson Hall at Simcoe St and King St W in downtown Toronto. The steel-tube framing will support the triangular and diamond-shaped glass that covers the venue
June 16, 1980 – Looking southeast toward the construction of Roy Thomson Hall at Simcoe St and King St W in downtown Toronto (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 42, Item 37)

Roy Thomson Hall is located at 60 Simcoe St (at King St W on the southwest corner) in the Entertainment District of downtown Toronto.

The “New Massey Hall”

In 1967, plans to build a “New Massey Hall” were announced. It took several years of preparation, and in 1979, construction began on the concert hall. In 1982, the venue was officially named Roy Thomson Hall when Mr Thomson’s family made a $4.5 million donation toward building the $39 million venue. That same year, the iconic structure opened for its inaugural season.

The Glass Dome Concert Hall

2021 - Looking south towards Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto. The concert hall opened in 1982 and is constructed of concrete, steel and glass
2021 – Looking south towards Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto. The concert hall opened in 1982 and is constructed of concrete, steel and glass

The Modern style building, which sits on 2.5 acres of land, was designed by Arthur Erickson, a prominent Canadian architect and author. This was in association with the Toronto architectural firm of Mathers and Haldenby. To ensure accessibility for disabled patrons and performers, violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman was a special advisor to the architects.

Roy Thomson Hall is constructed of steel and concrete and is covered by a multi-paned glass roof. The triangular and diamond-shaped glass is divided by glazing bars and braced by a steel-tube frame. By day the glass becomes reflective, and by night, it’s transparent.

The 30,000-square-foot auditorium initially had seating for 2,812 guests.

Acoustical Renovation of Roy Thomson Hall

2010s - Pink Martini orchestra performing at Roy Thomson Hall
2010s – Pink Martini orchestra performing at Roy Thomson Hall (The Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall)

In 2002, the auditorium underwent a $20+ million acoustical reengineering altering its size, design and shape. One of the major updates included adding 23 multi-layered wooden bulkheads to the upper chamber. This brought reflective surfaces closer to the audience, creating better sound.

Other updates included replacing the clear acrylic discs suspended over the stage with two adjustable wooden canopies. The stage was lengthened and refinished as well as the auditorium floor with Canadian maple. The capacity was reduced to 2,630 seats, and the seating on the main floor was divided between two aisles for better access.

Home to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the internationally famous venue has seen performances by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Leonard Bernstein, Anne Murray, Yo-Yo Ma, Miles Davis, Gordon Lightfoot, Herbie Hancock and many more.

Did You Know?

2022 - Looking southwest towards the Roy Thomson Hall from King St W and Simcoe St. The building received heritage status from the city in 1992. Notice the CN Tower in the background
2022 – Looking southwest towards the Roy Thomson Hall from King St W and Simcoe St. Notice the CN Tower in the background
  • Roy Herbert Thomson was a Canadian-born newspaper magnate named after Baron Thomson of Fleet.
  • The opening night gala was on September 13, 1982, and was televised live on CBC.
  • In 1992, the building received heritage status from the city.
  • From the mid-1910s until 1977, the location of Roy Thomson Hall was once home to the Canadian Pacific Express General Office Building and freight sheds. The demolition of the office building was controversial as it was considered an important example of Toronto’s early 20th-century industrial architecture. After its demolition and during Roy Thomson Hall’s construction, the site temporarily became a parking lot.
  • From 1867 until 1912, the Lieutenant Governor’s residence, known as the Government House, stood at the southwest corner of King St W and Simcoe St, where the concert hall stands today. The prior government residence, located on the same site, had been destroyed by fire in 1862.

Roy Thomson Hall Photos

2020 - Looking southwest towards the Roy Thomson Hall, located at 60 Simcoe St and King St W in the Entertainment District of downtown Toronto
2020 – Looking southwest towards the Roy Thomson Hall, located at 60 Simcoe St and King St W in the Entertainment District of downtown Toronto
July 16, 1979 – Looking southwest from King St W and Simcoe St toward the future site of what was known then as the New Massey Hall. In 1982, it was announced that the concert venue would be named after Roy Herbert Thomson, a newspaper magnate. His family made a $4.5 million donation
July 16, 1979 – Looking southwest from King St W and Simcoe St toward the future site of what was known then as the New Massey Hall. In 1982, it was announced that the concert venue would be named after Roy Herbert Thomson, a newspaper magnate. His family made a $4.5 million donation towards its construction (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 42, Item 29)
April 5, 1980 – An view from the Lord Simcoe Hotel looking southwest towards St Andrew's Church and the construction of Roy Thomson Hall at Simcoe St and King St W
April 5, 1980 – An aerial view from the Lord Simcoe Hotel looking southwest towards St Andrew’s Church and the construction of Roy Thomson Hall at Simcoe St and King St W (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 26, Item 17)
April 5, 1980 – An aerial view from the Lord Simcoe Hotel looking southwest towards St Andrew's Church and the construction of Roy Thomson Hall at Simcoe St and King St W. Notice the Canadian General Electric Company Building on the right
April 5, 1980 – An aerial view from the Lord Simcoe Hotel looking southwest towards St Andrew’s Church and the construction of Roy Thomson Hall at Simcoe St and King St W. Notice the Canadian General Electric Company Building on the right (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 26, Item 30)
June 16, 1980 - Looking southeast toward the construction of Roy Thomson Hall at Simcoe St and King St W in downtown Toronto. The steel-tube framing will support the triangular and diamond-shaped glass that covers the venue
June 16, 1980 – Looking southeast toward the construction of Roy Thomson Hall at Simcoe St and King St W in downtown Toronto. The steel-tube framing will support the triangular and diamond-shaped glass that covers the venue (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 42, Item 37)
June 16, 1980 - Looking southeast on King St W toward the construction of Roy Thomson Hall at Simcoe St. Notice St Andrew's Church in the background
June 16, 1980 – Looking southeast on King St W toward the construction of Roy Thomson Hall at Simcoe St. Notice St Andrew’s Church in the background (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 26, Item 33)
August 11, 1980 - Triangular and diamond-shaped glass, braced by steel-tube framing, being added to Roy Thomson Hall during construction
August 11, 1980 – Triangular and diamond-shaped glass, braced by steel-tube framing, being added to Roy Thomson Hall during construction (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 42, Item 39)
1981 – Looking southwest from Simcoe St and King St W towards the construction of Roy Thomson Hall. Notice the sign reads: "The New Massey Hall - Great music for everyone"
1981 – Looking southwest from Simcoe St and King St W towards the construction of Roy Thomson Hall. Notice the sign reads: “The New Massey Hall – Great music for everyone” (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 42, Item 43)
1980s – An aerial view from Front St W, just west of John St, looking northeast toward the Roy Thomson Hall. Notice Old Ed’s and Ed’s Warehouse, the white buildings on the left
1980s – An aerial view from Front St W, just west of John St, looking northeast toward the Roy Thomson Hall. Notice Old Ed’s and Ed’s Warehouse, the white buildings on the left (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1465, File 416, Item 1)
1981 - Looking southwest from University Ave towards St Andrew's Church and Roy Thomson Hall at King St W and Simcoe St
1981 – Looking southwest from University Ave towards St Andrew’s Church and Roy Thomson Hall at King St W and Simcoe St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 67, Item 9)
1983 - Roy Thomson Hall at King St W and Simcoe St. The entertainment venue was designed by architect Arthur Erickson in association with the firm Mathers & Haldenby
1983 – Roy Thomson Hall at King St W and Simcoe St. The entertainment venue was designed by architect Arthur Erickson in association with the firm Mathers & Haldenby (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 42, Item 47)
1988 or 1989 - The photo was taken by photographer Larry Miller showing musicians of the Toronto Symphony under Music Director Designate and Conductor Gunther Herbig at Roy Thomson Hall during their 67th
1988 or 1989 – The photo was taken by photographer Larry Miller showing musicians of the Toronto Symphony under Music Director Designate and Conductor Gunther Herbig at Roy Thomson Hall during their 67th season (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 329, File 266, Item 1)
2010s - Pink Martini orchestra performing at Roy Thomson Hall. The venue has a seating capacity of 2,630
2010s – Pink Martini orchestra performing at Roy Thomson Hall. The venue has a seating capacity of 2,630 (The Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall)
2019 - Looking southwest towards the Roy Thomson Hall with the CN Tower in the background. Roy Thomson Hall is home to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra
2019 – Looking southwest towards the Roy Thomson Hall with the CN Tower in the background. Roy Thomson Hall is home to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra
2021 - Looking south towards Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto. The concert hall opened in 1982 and is constructed of concrete, steel and glass
2021 – Looking south towards Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto. The concert hall opened in 1982 and is constructed of concrete, steel and glass
2022 - Looking south towards King St W and Simcoe St intersection in the Entertainment District of downtown Toronto. Notice the Roy Thomson Hall and the CN Tower on the right side with St Andrew's Church on the left
2022 – Looking south towards King St W and Simcoe St intersection in the Entertainment District of downtown Toronto. Notice the Roy Thomson Hall and the CN Tower on the right side with St Andrew’s Church on the left
2022 - Looking southwest towards the Roy Thomson Hall from King St W and Simcoe St. The building received heritage status from the city in 1992. Notice the CN Tower in the background
2022 – Looking southwest towards the Roy Thomson Hall from King St W and Simcoe St. The building received heritage status from the city in 1992. Notice the CN Tower in the background
1978 – Looking southeast from King St W towards the future site of the Roy Thomson Hall. Notice St Andrew's Church at the corner of King St W and Simcoe St. The church’s first service was held in 1876
1978 – Looking southeast from King St W towards the future site of the Roy Thomson Hall. Notice St Andrew’s Church at the corner of King St W and Simcoe St. The church’s first service was held in 1876 (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 3, ID 67)
1977 - Looking northeast from John St, just north of Wellington St W, toward the future site of Roy Thomson Hall. The photo shows the demolition of the Canadian Pacific Express General Office Building and freight sheds that stood on the site since the mid-1910s
1977 – Looking northeast from John St, just north of Wellington St W, toward the future site of Roy Thomson Hall. The photo shows the demolition of the Canadian Pacific Express General Office Building and freight sheds that stood on the site since the mid-1910s (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 42, Item 25)
1972 - Looking southwest from King St W and Simcoe St towards the Canadian Pacific Express General Office Building. Its demolition in 1977 to make way for Roy Thomson Hall was a controversial subject as it was considered an important example of early 20th-century industrial architecture in Toronto
1972 – Looking southwest from King St W and Simcoe St towards the Canadian Pacific Express General Office Building. Its demolition in 1977 to make way for Roy Thomson Hall was a controversial subject as it was considered an important example of early 20th-century industrial architecture in Toronto (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 2032, Series 841, File 44, Item 4)
Between 1964 and 1972 - An aerial view looking west from King St W and Simcoe St. Notice the Canadian Pacific Express General Office Building and freight sheds once occupied the site of Roy Thomson Hall
Between 1964 and 1972 – An aerial view looking west from King St W and Simcoe St. Notice the Canadian Pacific Express General Office Building and freight sheds once occupied the site of Roy Thomson Hall (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 313, Item 57)
1912 – Looking north from Simcoe St towards King St W in the Entertainment District of Toronto. Notice the future site of Roy Thomson Hall on the left, the Canadian General Electric Company Building in the centre-left and St Andrew Church on the right
1912 – Looking north from Simcoe St towards King St W in the Entertainment District of Toronto. Notice the future site of Roy Thomson Hall on the left, the Canadian General Electric Company Building in the centre-left and St Andrew Church on the right (City of Toronto Archives, Series 372, Sub Series 58, Item 110)
Circa 1912 - Looking northwest towards the Lieutenant Governor's Residence, which was once on the southwest corner of King St W and Simcoe St. Known as the Government House, this building existed from 1867 until 1912. It was replaced with the Canadian Pacific Express General Office Building and freight sheds in the mid-1910s. Today, it's the site of Roy Thomson Hall
Circa 1912 – Looking northwest towards the Lieutenant Governor’s Residence, which was once on the southwest corner of King St W and Simcoe St. Known as the Government House, this building existed from 1867 until 1912. It was replaced with the Canadian Pacific Express General Office Building and freight sheds in the mid-1910s. Today, it’s the site of Roy Thomson Hall (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1587, Series 409, Item 58)
1911 - A garden party at Lieutenant Governor's Residence on the southwest corner of King St W and Simcoe St. This building was known as the Government House and was in existence from 1867 until 1912. Today, it's the site of Roy Thomson Hall
1911 – A garden party at Lieutenant Governor’s Residence on the southwest corner of King St W and Simcoe St. This building was known as the Government House and was in existence from 1867 until 1912. Today, it’s the site of Roy Thomson Hall (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 2584)
SOURCE
  • City of Toronto Heritage Register: 60 Simcoe St
  • Ontario Heritage Trust: 60 Simcoe St
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Jun 27, 1912, pg 9
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Sep 5, 1913, pg 8
  • The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Jan 15, 1977, pg 5
  • The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Jan 13, 1982, pg 1
  • The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Jun 3, 1982, pg 21
  • The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Sep 13, 1982, pg 13
  • The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Aug 13, 2002, pg R3
  • The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Aug 15, 2002, pg A18
  • Landmarks of Toronto: Volume 6 by J Ross Robertson (1914), pgs 426-27
  • Roy Thomson Hall: Historical Timeline of Roy Thomson Hall
  • Photos: Denise Marie for TorontoJourney416
  • Vintage Photos: City of Toronto Archives
  • Interior Photo: The Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall

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