Roxy Theatre

Winner – Award of Excellence in Urban Architecture & People’s Choice Award (2023 Edmonton Urban Design Awards)

The original Roxy Theatre, lost to fire in 2015, was deeply embedded in Edmonton’s theatre scene and an anchor of the 124th Street community. Memories recall lineups snaking down the block, an over-crowded lobby spilling onto the street and restaurants packed with audience members anticipating a show or glowing in its aftermath. The design of the new theatre celebrates these memories and reinforces the theatre’s relationship to public space.

The rebuilt theatre occupies the same narrow site, presenting an urban design challenge to maximize the impact of limited street frontage while designing for inward-focused theatre spaces. Massing is tallest at the rear to accommodate the stage and catwalk, descending towards the street in a platonic wedge that concentrates the building’s formal energy at the public interface. A generous overhang protects and enhances this pedestrian-oriented space, taking advantage of zoning allowances for overhead construction above city-owned sidewalks. White stucco cladding references the international style of its predecessor, while anticipating future development of neighbouring properties.

An operable glass wall at grade creates a flexible, permeable connection to the public sidewalk, supporting direct access to the lobby in temperate conditions and offering views to gallery walls inside. A subtle transition from sidewalk to polished concrete floor reinforces the lobby as an extension of the streetscape.

The prized second-level frontage is occupied by the rehearsal hall; large windows create a public-facing proscenium where glimpses of upcoming performances are broadcast to the street. Specially selected window blinds double as rear projection screens that further animate the facade.

The iconic sign reaches skyward to the maximum allowable building height; its warm yellow glow visible from afar signals the return of a cultural hub. Bigger and bolder, it is resolutely dedicated to the memory of its predecessor; broken shards recovered from the debris allowed for an exact colour match.

In a city where the urban fabric changes quickly the enduring legacy of this sign is an invaluable tool to recast a part of Edmonton’s story.

A rebuildable city is embraced by developing performance spaces and galleries that anticipate and promote the growth of Edmonton’s arts scene. White stucco walls and a radius corner reference the heritage of the original Roxy’s 1930s international aesthetic, while black-glazed brick is a metaphor for the fire that led to its demise. The design strives to catalyze and converge the city’s creative arts with a fertile hub for local theatre.


Edmonton, AB