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New Opera House and Theater Opens; Dallas Arts District Nears Completion October 12 marks the long-awaited grand opening of the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA), a multiple-venue complex located in the Dallas Arts District that includes a new opera house and outdoor performance park designed by Foster + Partners, a multiform theater designed by REX/OMA (Kendall/ Heaton was the associate architect for both projects), and a 10-acre public park designed by the French landscape architect Michel Desvigne. The $350 million project has taken nine years to design, fund, and construct, and represents the most significant new performing arts complex to be built in the U.S. since the completion of New York City’s Lincoln Center in 1969. The DCPA also marks the substantial completion of the Arts District itself, which now boasts the world’s foremost ensemble of visual and performing arts facilities in one contiguous, urban location. The Arts District encompasses 19 blocks and more than 68 acres of real estate in the downtown’s northeast quadrant. Planning for the district was initiated in 1977 when a study was commissioned to assess the city’s cultural inventory and to recommend potential locations and funding strategies for new arts facilities. The analysis called for a loose concentration of new cultural venues to be located on the north end of Dallas’ business district, between Ross Avenue and Woodall Rodgers Freeway. Sasaki Associates completed a master plan for the district in 1982, in which Flora Street was conceived as a six-block-long pedestrian-oriented spine linking the proposed cultural facilities and open spaces with over ten million square feet of office, retail, hotel, and residential development. Parking was to be located underground, and the entire district would be visually unified by the strict enforcement of design guidelines. The first cultural institution to build in the Arts District was the Dallas Museum of Art, which opened its new facility (designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes) in 1984. Over the ensuing 25 years, development in the district proceeded sporadically, with the completion of the Meyerson Symphony Center (I.M. Pei & Partners) in 1989, the Nasher Sculpture Center (Renzo Piano Building Workshop) in 2003, and the renovation and expansion of the Booker T. Washington School for the Performing and Visual Arts (Allied Works Architecture) last

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Winspear Opera House (top), designed by Foster + Partners, and the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre (right), designed by REX/OMA.

year (see January/February 2009 Texas Architect). With the DCPA having augmented this list with two new venues by world-renowned architects, a total of four Pritzker Prize winners have now left their imprint on the Dallas Arts District. The master plan for the DCPA builds upon the 1982 Sasaki Plan by maintaining Flora Street as the district’s spine and extending it eastward by two blocks to Routh Street, where it encounters the 24-story massif of One Arts Plaza (see March/April 2008 TA). The two principal venues of the DCPA – the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House and the Dee and Charles Wyly Theater – have been placed by their architects upon a green tableau, set back from Flora Street in contradiction to Sasaki’s original massing guidelines and conspicuously divergent from the setbacks of other buildings in the Arts District. The new facilities are buffered from the street by Desvigne’s extended urban garden – named the Elaine D. and Charles A. Sammons Park – with its canopies of trees, green lawns interspersed with native landscaping, and a large reflecting pool. The opera house and theater are designed to transcend their physical boundaries and spill their activities into this park, dissolving the barriers between inside and out, so that private cultural events can become catalysts for public life in the district. The Winspear Opera House serves as the metaphorical “heart” of the group of five performing

arts venues located in the eastern half of the Arts District. The striking design by Foster + Partners (led by Sir Norman Foster and Spencer de Grey) features a lozenge-shaped performance hall and glass-clad lobby suspended within a monumental shade canopy that covers most of the site. The 2,200-seat auditorium is an interpretation of the classic horseshoe configuration found in many of the world’s great opera halls, including Milan’s La Scala and London’s Covent Garden. The interior of the hall is arranged in ascending tiers and has been engineered with flexible acoustics and stage configurations to accommodate performances of the Dallas Opera and the Texas Ballet, as well as Broadway shows. The building’s lobby is encased within an expansive, 60-foot-high wall of glass, creating a transparency between the opera hall and the surrounding Sammons Park and providing patrons with sweeping views of the downtown skyline. Overhead, the canopy’s fixed metal louvers provide optimal shade for the

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Photos by Willis Winters, FAIA


Construction continued in July on the Margot and Bill

Texas Architect Sept/Oct 2009: Design Awards  

This issue features the 12 projects awarded with the Texas Society of Architects' 2009 Design Awards. Texas Architect, the official publicat...

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