Saint John Courthouse Theatre

Design that reflects a deliberate balance of modern architecture, technical excellence and historical preservation

The transformation of the Old Saint John County Courthouse creates a modernized new performing arts space while preserving an important piece of the city’s architectural heritage.

Built in the 1820s, the Old Saint John County Courthouse is a National Historic Site of Canada. In 1919, a fire destroyed the original interior design, leaving behind only a freestanding spiral stone staircase, one of only a scarce few known in Canada. Due to extensive damage, the courthouse was restructured in 1925 and designated in 1974 in recognition of its importance to the judicial history of New Brunswick and Canada. Since then, the courthouse’s exemplary architectural value has been recognized for its neoclassical-inspired design, freestanding circular stone staircase and interior detailing.

The three-story, 200-year-old structure, will be transformed from a courthouse into a modern performing arts facility. This rejuvenated facility will continue the revitalization of the entertainment district, catalyze the city’s smart growth goals and contribute to a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood. To become the leading Atlantic Canada theatre, the centerpiece of the new arts facility will be a 250-person performance space.

Working in close collaboration with Saint John Theatre Company, our team was able to determine meaningful ways to reinvent the space to serve as a vehicle for performative expression, focusing on contemporary design elements combined with elements from neoclassical architecture. The new, modern design is respectful of the building’s rich history and preserves integral features such as the original staircase.

EXP’s design merges the vision of preserving the building’s historic identity and rectifying the deficiency of necessary facilities and resources that support the field of performance arts in the Saint John area. Additionally, the team focuses on harnessing safety, sustainability and artistic and performative opportunities for those who will utilize and enjoy the building. The design of the building incorporates elements that center around healthy building, performers and community with accessibility as a central design objective.

The SJTC is the first project to go through the City’s new and rigorous design review process and passed both the Heritage Development Board and Common Council with unanimous consent. The renovation and rehabilitation of the historic courthouse establishes a new precedent for design excellence in the heritage conservation area.



Architecture, Interior Design, Structural, Geotechnical

City of Saint John, Heritage Award, 2022
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