The old with the new

David Sisam’s contemporary design aims to compliment

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Indian River Festival has relied on a simple, time-tested strategy for their audience: the old with the new. Sitting under the vaults of Historic St. Mary’s, visitors can hear renditions of Mozart and Bach one night, and the contemporary music of Matt Andersen or David Myles the next.

When architect David Sisam proposed a more modern plan for the St. Mary’s pavilion, the team at Indian River Festival was thrilled, as was the design community. Last year, his design for the pavilion won an Atlantic WoodWORKS! Wood Design Award.

The summer concerts of the Indian River Festival are now what keeps the Historic St. Mary’s from falling to rack and ruin. Efforts to preserve the church started with the Save St. Mary’s campaign in 1987 and have continued since 1996 with the induction of the Indian River Festival Association.

In 2014, the board of directors of Indian River Festival made a decision to replace the provisional tent on the west lawn beside the church—used before and after performances, and during intermissions—with a permanent structure. A board committee was put together to direct the project.

Sisam created the detailed design drawings and models, and a local architectural firm, BGHJ (now Nine Yards Studio) in Charlottetown, did the construction documents.

”I imagined the pavilion to be outward looking, embracing the surrounding landscape, as opposed to the church which is very inwardly focused,” David explains. “The material palette, colour and scale complemented rather than imitated the more introspective nature of the gothic architecture of the church.”

The pavilion is a single-storey volume, with a partial clerestory and generous wood decks. The exterior white cedar shingles match the shingles of the church, allowing for a complimentary colour scheme. The north and east facades abutting a dense tree scape and the church annex, respectively, are largely opaque with a ribbon of high awning windows to allow for ventilation on warm summer evenings. The south and east facades are more transparent, with large retractable glass doors.

Strategically oriented to offer views of the nearby pasture and beyond to Malpeque Bay, the pavilion with its low roof, glass doors and outdoor wood deck engage the exterior while the windows above let daylight filter down to the center of the pavilion. In the late summer, when the sky begins to darken earlier, the clerestory takes on the appearance of a large lantern when viewed from the lawn.

The higher butterfly roof, which is supported by a large steel beam and a prefabricated glulam wood frame structure, slopes down to the north east. The glulam wood roof structure is sealed spruce. The flat roof is precut structural wood deck.

Historic St. Mary'sIndian River Festival