ImprovLab rendering designed by Diamond-Schmitt Architects ImprovLab

The ImprovLab is a performance and research facility that is part of a major renovation of the performing arts wing of the MacKinnon Building at the heart of the University of Guelph campus.

Building on our renowned, interdisciplinary research program in Critical Studies in Improvisation—and enabled by core funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the University of Guelph—the new facilities will cultivate collaboration and interdisciplinary research, while fostering the next generation of performances and audiences. When complete in 2022, this world-class facility will enable scholars to advance leading-edge research on the social impacts of improvisatory artistic practices.

The ImprovLab will be housed in a new addition located in the MacKinnon Green, adjacent to the College of Arts theatre and music recital hall. Optimized for acoustical integrity in various spatial configurations, the ImprovLab will be flexible, functioning in multiple arrangements such as a controlled black-box environment or an airy space that engages visually with the tree-filled green to the south. The ImprovLab will feature state-of-the-art technical infrastructure for audience and performance research. It will include a multipurpose room for working with smaller groups and three private labs for research and analysis.

ImprovLab will provide a publicly accessible and flexible environment in which researchers can collaborate with one another, as well as with university members, partners, and the broader community. Designed for the presentation, broadcast, archiving, and analysis of improvised performance and audience reception studies, it offers a wide range of possibilities for audience seating and research participation.

For ongoing updates about the progress of ImprovLab and the MacKinnon Building renovations, visit this page.

IICSI team members named in the CFI research proposal are:

Principal Users:

Ajay Heble (University of Guelph)
Daniel Fischlin (University of Guelph)
James Harley (University of Guelph)
Carla Rice (University of Guelph)
Rebecca Caines (University of Regina)
Eric Lewis (McGill University)
Jesse Stewart (Carleton University)
Ellen Waterman (Carleton University)

Secondary Users:

Frederique Arroyas (University of Guelph)
Roger Dean (Western Sydney University)
George Lewis (Columbia University)
George Lipsitz (University of California, Santa Barbara)
Marta McCarthy (University of Guelph)
Kevin McNeilly (University of British Columbia)
John Semple (Women’s College Hospital and University of Toronto)
Sherrie Tucker (University of Kansas)

ImprovLab Renderings: (Diamond Schmitt Architects,


Depicted are the Winegard Walk South Entrance of MacKinnon and ImprovLab

Depicted in this artist rendering by Diamond Schmitt Architects: the Winegard Walk South Entrance of MacKinnon and ImprovLab.

ImprovLab artist rendering of new improvlab people sitting and standin gon a lawn of green grass outside a wall of glass windows

Depicted in this artist rendering by Diamond Schmitt Architects: the exterior of the ImprovLab amd surrounding green space.


ImprovLab rendering

Depicted in this artist rendering by Diamond Schmitt Architects: the interior of the ImprovLab black box theatre.

ImprovLab is primarily a research facility, and usage is dedicated to improvisation-related research activities. Approximate percentages of full-time research use and off-hours uses are estimated in this proposed Space Use Graph.

graph illustrating the Research use for the ImprovLab

This Space Use Graph illustrates the space use for the ImprovLab. The green area represents 75% of the use by the 3 main Research Areas (Practice-Based Research, Experimental Technologies, and Social Determinants of Health), the blue area represents 25% use by Additional Research, and the purple areas represents Partner and Community rentals, Affiliated Researchers, as well as fee based use.

Watch this video from the University of Guelph for more insights into how this space will look, and the ways in which it will serve our community, once construction is complete: