Phantom of the Opera Competition (1988) - TSA

Phantom of the Opera Competition (1988)

The Toronto Society of Architects sponsored and organised an international open, anonymous design competition for a new Ballet-Opera house to be located in downtown Toronto. The competition was seen as a means by which downtown redevelopment could be catalyzed, and was open to all registered architects, graduate architects and architectural students.

A professional advisor, Toronto architect Roger du Toit, was engaged in June of 1987 in order to assist in writing the competition brief, issued as a “Prequalification Document” that described the ambitions of the project. Included in this document was the following design challenge to be considered by all of the architects submitting entries, “The Companies (namely the National Ballet and the Canadian Opera Company) believe that the quality of the design of ballet/opera houses reached a peak in the 18th and 19th centuries, which has not been matched since, and the early and mid-20th century design approaches have usually failed to combine those qualities essential to live theatrical performances: intimacy, atmosphere, practicality and a sense of celebration and human scale.”

Forty-nine firms responded to the first stage of the competition, and in September 1987 a second stage narrowed down the competing firms to 16 who were each then interviewed by the jury. In December of that same year three finalists were chosen: the first from Barton Myers Architect Inc. in collaboration with Kuwabara, Payne, McKenna Blumberg Architects; the second from Moshe Safdie and Associates; and the third from James Stirling Michael Wilford and Associates in collaboration with Adamson and Associates. With this list of finalists, the recommendation from the professional advisor was that “The selection was to choose an architect, not a final design. The whole focus was on design ability. We thought that technical ability could be established afterward.” In March 1988, the team led by Moshe Safdie and Associates was selected as the winner. That same year the TSA organised the Phantom of the Opera Exhibition to showcase the ideas that emerged from the competition.

Regardless of the fact that both land, a large parcel bounded by Bay Street, Wellesley Street, and Yonge Street, and a $65-million building grant from the province were secured, Safdie’s proposed building was never built.(1) This was due to the provincial election in 1990 that replaced the Liberal government with the NDP government, and instigated budget cuts which resulted in the cancellation of the project.(2)

(1) See Reference >
(2) See Reference >

History Gallery

Advertisement from a local newspaper calling registered architects, graduates and architectural students to register for the Phantom of The Opera Competition.

Opera Canada issue of the Ballet Opera House article by Geoffery Simmins, Fall of 1988.

Advertisement from a local newspaper calling registered architects, graduates and architectural students to register for the Phantom of The Opera competition.

Moshe Safdie and Associates competition panel for the Phantom of The Opera.

Moshe Safdie and Associates competition model.