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

We are delighted to announce that we will be holding a groundbreaking ceremony for the new CFI funded ImprovLab facility and the renovations of the performing arts wing of the University of Guelph MacKinnon building. As part of the ceremony, we’ll be joined for a short performance by Korean master percussionist Dong-Won Kim (a member of Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble).

Dong-Won Kim promo image with drum

Dong-Won Kim

Please join us for this celebration in the MacKinnon courtyard on Thursday October 24th at 9:30 am.

Construction on the MacKinnon Building aimed at building a new ImprovLab research and performance facility and updating the existing theatre, student spaces and main entrance will launch with an official groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 24, 2019 at 9:30 a.m.

The University community, architects, funders and supporters are invited to attend the event to be held in the MacKinnon quadrangle.

Renovations will cover 45,000 sq. ft of space that currently houses performing arts.

The MacKinnon Building was constructed in 1967 in the heart of campus. It houses, among other facilities, the College of Arts and the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (IICSI).  

Renovations will include the construction of the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI)-funded ImprovLab in support of research by the IICSI whose work is at the forefront internationally of research on the impact of improvised creative practices. The ImprovLab will be a publicly accessible multi-use research lab for the presentation, broadcast, archiving, and analysis of improvised performance, community workshops, and audience reception studies across a variety of media. The new facility will provide a space for researchers to collaborate with each other, the university population, and the broader community. Professor Ajay Heble, the principal investigator relayed his delight: “I am so excited to have this amazing opportunity to build a state-of-the-art, technologically advanced research and performance facility – it promises to have far-reaching impacts and benefits for the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation, for the University, for our partners and stakeholders, and for the broader arts community.”

Representing more than $20 million in investment from the University of Guelph and the CFI, renovations will also involve the building of a new main entrance, creation of student spaces, reconfiguring and returning the Luscombe Theatre to a black-box performance space, new practice spaces for music as well as aesthetic updates and updates to existing spaces to address both accessibility and acoustical issues.  Samantha Brennan, Dean of Arts, says she is “thrilled to see all the months the detailed planning and groundwork come to life over the next year.”

Diamond Schmitt Architects ( have been engaged to support renovations to the MacKinnon Building. With more than 40 projects for the performing arts and even more in academic building design, the internationally recognized studio brings to this project an extraordinary depth of experience to create a transformative design solution. “This modernization enhances both the aesthetics and performance capabilities of the MacKinnon Building to engage students and ignite their creative drive,” said Michael Treacy, Principal, Diamond Schmitt Architects.

Project management is supported by Physical Resources at the University of Guelph.

Construction will begin in the fall of 2019 to create the foundations and enclosure of the new building. The project is expected to be completed in Spring 2021.

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