Rendering courtesy Dallas Center for the Performing Arts
glass facade and the exterior spaces throughout the day, taming the harsh Texas sun to create a microclimate around the building. Within the all-encompassing structural framework of the canopy, the performance hall is rotated off the orthogonal grid of the Arts District. The resulting north-south orientation produces an exciting physical dynamic amongst the rigid geometry of the surrounding buildings. This gesture acknowledges and complements the rotated auditorium of the Meyerson Symphony Center next door and creates exciting perspective views along Flora and Leonard streets. The Winspear is an epic building—one that not only has a grand physical presence, enhanced by the 1,400 deep-red glass panels that encapsulate the Margaret McDermott Performance Hall, but also one that creates a monumental civic space that is accessible and inviting. It is a building that has been shrewdly geared toward civic engagement by its architects, transforming the Arts District from a masonry-clad ensemble largely devoid of pedestrian life, into an energetic, thriving, and ultimately rich architectural and cultural mecca. In contrast to the predominant sprawl of the various arts venues in the district stands the shimmering, 12-story Wyly Theater, a radically conceived reinvention of the traditional theater house by its designers, Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramos. Home to the Dallas Theater Center, the Wyly is one of the most innovative new theater buildings in the world. It eschews the traditional arrangement of a theater’s support spaces wrapped around the stage house and, instead, organizes them vertically into a stacked design, tightly packed within the building’s roughly square footprint. Back-ofhouse becomes above-house. This arrangement eliminates the traditional distinction between stage and auditorium, allowing artistic directors to not only reconfigure the performance chamber, but also the relationship between audience and performance, and the even more problematic relationship between the interior of the theater and the outdoors. This degree of drastic flexibility is achieved through the facility’s advanced, mechanized “superfly” system, which allows both scenery and suspended seating balconies to be “flown,” or lifted out of sight to create proscenium stage, thrust stage, and flat-floor configurations. At ground level, the exterior curtain walls of the 600-seat PotterRose Performance Hall are of acoustic-grade transparent glass with integral shade and vision
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controls. On the hall’s west side, two massive pivoting doors can open during intermission, or to allow oversized stage props (elephants were shown in the architects’ early concept sketches) in for a performance. The upper floors of the Wyly are clad in a combination of six different aluminum tube extrusions, which has the effect of wrapping the building in a giant metal stage curtain. The result is dazzling and luxurious. The Wyly Theater attains an iconic status in the history of theater design, and gives the Arts District a brilliant new architectural landmark for the twenty-first century. In addition to the opera house, an outdoor performance venue, the Annette Strauss Artist Square, also designed by Foster + Partners, is currently under construction, with an opening scheduled next year. In 2011, the first phase of the City Performance Hall, designed by the Chicago office of SOM, will open next door to the Wyly. Other non-arts-related projects currently under development in the Arts District include the 42-story condominium Museum Tower designed by Johnson Fain of Los Angeles; Two Arts Plaza, the second phase of Billingsley Company’s mixed-use project that anchors the east end of the district; and a 22-story office building to be constructed on top of the Arts District parking garage, itself the site of the abandoned Lone Star Tower project dating back to the late 1980s. On the north side of the district, a 5.2-acre, $70 million park is under construction on top of Woodall Rodgers Freeway, and nearby is the site of the Dallas Museum of Nature and Science, currently under design by Thom Mayne. The recently completed slate of projects by Foster + Partners and REX/OMA sets a very high bar for what is to come. W i l l i s
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With the opening of the two projects in October, the Dallas Arts District will be close to completion.
Foster + Partners Exhibit at Nasher The Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas has shown a significant interest in architecture during its relatively brief history. Aside from film, lectures, and symposia, it mounted an impressive survey of the work of the Renzo Piano Building Workshop, the architect of the museum. Now it has organized a significant architectural retrospective of Foster + Partners to coincide with the opening of that firm’s nearby Winspear Opera House. Jed Morse, acting chief curator at the Nasher, says the focus of the exhibition – The Art of Architecture: Foster + Partners – “is to provide context and understanding of the opera house.” Planned for some time, the retrospective is a “one-off” that is organized by the Nasher and will not be traveling elsewhere. The museum will display models, renderings, drawings, and videos showing the design process of many of the firm’s noted works around the globe, with a special emphasis on civic, cultural, and infrastructure projects. Morse also stated the museum plans more architectural offerings in the future, including an architectural film series. The exhibition will open on Sept. 26 and run through Jan. 10. In addition, events on the opening day will include a public lecture at the Winspear by Spencer De Grey, the firm’s head of design. For more information visit www.nashersculpturecenter.org. G r e g o r y
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This issue features the 12 projects awarded with the Texas Society of Architects' 2009 Design Awards. Texas Architect, the official publicat...