Simon Fraser University’s School for the Contemporary Arts


A virtuoso performance.

Simon Fraser University’s School for the Contemporary Arts in downtown Vancouver is designed for creative collaboration. Designed by HDR | CEI and Proscenium Architects in Joint Venture, the 135,000 sq ft facility brings together several disciplines, including music, dance, theatre, film and visual arts, with an array of teaching spaces that double as fully equipped performance, exhibition and multi-media venues. The objective of the project was to maximize the available area with spaces that can serve multiple purposes without feeling cluttered or stifling.

With its urban location and professional-level facilities, the building provides an inviting atmosphere to draw professional artists, enhancing students’ learning and collaborative opportunities. The facilities also connect students with an eager audience, as the public is able to attend a variety of music, dance and theatrical performances and artistic exhibitions at the site. The design team worked closely with each artistic discipline to determine their space needs and deliver a design that would enhance their ability to teach and create contemporary art.

One significant design challenge was the technical requirements related to having many performance spaces in close quarters, including a black box theatre. With support from acoustical (Aercoustics Engineering) and performance audio and lighting specialists (Doug Welch Design), the spaces were designed in ‘stacked’ arrangements, with vertical separation between each, to provide sound and light isolation.

The result is a flexible facility in which the non-programmed spaces are suitable for a plurality of uses, maximizing creative space within and around the building. In this way, the facility itself is part of the learning and artistic processes, creating new opportunities for spontaneous interaction and cross-pollination among the students and faculty. Part of the performance.

Project Cost



127,000 sq ft


Feb 2010

Sustainable Features

  • Efficient use of layout by stacking performance spaces on top of one another
  • Flexible design enables multiple and interdisciplinary uses for almost all areas



Gold, Public and Institutional Spaces Category, 2011

Interior Designers Institute of BC Awards of Excellence

"It will be an exciting facility for our students and for the public, in terms of the synergies between the different art forms."

Owen Underhill

Composer and Special Adviser for SFU Woodward's


Simon Fraser University


Vancouver, BC