Honouring Theatre Architect Peter Smith
Mirvish Productions mourns the passing of Peter Smith, Canada’s leading theatre architect of both new performance spaces and the restoration of heritage theatres. He designed the Princess of Wales Theatre in 1993 and most recently consulted on the remodelling and restoration of the Royal Alexandra Theatre in 2016. He died on July 7, 2021 in Toronto. He was 85 years old.
To honour his contributions to the theatre and mark his passing, the marquee lights of both the Princess of Wales and the Royal Alexandra theatres were dimmed on Friday, July 9 at 8 pm, the traditional curtain time.
David Mirvish said: “Peter’s love for the theatre was the key to his success as an architect. His knowledge of theatre design was second to none. He knew how to create a space that brought artists and audiences together, providing each with the finest elements to make a performance the best it could be.
"His design of theatres was as important a contribution to the success of Canada’s theatre sector as that of the best playwrights, actors, directors and designers.
“I will always treasure the time I spent with Peter during the building of the Princess of Wales Theatre. He truly had a special talent, and he was a genuine artist. He was thorough, gentle, considerate and patient. He was a wonderful and kind person, and a dear friend. I will miss him.
"The theatre world has lost one of its stars."
Peter was born in Birmingham, England in 1936, graduated from the Birmingham School of Architecture in 1957, and emigrated to Canada in 1961.
Peter worked in the firm of architect Ron Thom from 1963 to 1973, becoming a senior partner. He served as project architect for the Expo '67 master plan and activity areas, the Metropolitan Toronto Zoo, the Shaw Festival Theatre and Trent University's Bata Library.
In 1973, he entered a partnership with William P. Lett to form Lett / Smith Architects. As Toronto principal for the firm, Peter was responsible for all of its performing and visual arts projects. Besides the Princess of Wales Theatre, his projects included: the Isabel Bader Theatre (2002 OAA Award of Excellence and City of Toronto Architecture and Urban Design Award); Theatre Aquarius, Hamilton; the Harbourfront Centre’s Power Plant art gallery and the Harbourfront Centre Theatre; renovation and reconstruction of the Grand Theatre, London, Ont. (Governor General's medal for design); the North Bay Arts Centre renovation of the Capitol Theatre; the Keck Theater at Occidental College, Los Angeles; and the Public Archives and National Library Building auditorium reconstruction, Ottawa.
Peter was passionate about theatre and was involved in the theatre community beyond architecture. He was the 1993 recipient of the prestigious Drama Bench Award presented by Canadian Theatre Critics Association for “Distinguished Contribution to Canadian Theatre,” the first architect to ever receive this award. That same year, he was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts. He was a member of the Canadian and US Institutes of Theatre Technology, and served on the Ryerson University Theatre School Advisory Committee and the University of Toronto Design Review Committee.