|You are viewing a trimmed-down version of the SkyscraperPage.com discussion forum. For the full version follow the link below.|
View Full Version : DALLAS | Arts District Redevelopment
Oct 10, 2007, 8:26 PM
The Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, a new multi-venue Center for music, opera, theater and dance will open in 2009, completing the 25-year dream of the Dallas Arts District. The most significant performing arts complex to be built since Lincoln Center in New York, the Center will provide multi-state-of-the-art facilities woven together by an urban park covering more than ten acres to create a dynamic cultural destination that is unparalleled in the world.
The Dallas Center for the Performing Arts will create new landmarks on the Dallas skyline, with stunning buildings designed by some of the world's greatest architects:
• The Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House brings the design of the grandest opera halls in Europe into the 21st century, with a transparent, welcoming space that will become a focal point of the Dallas Arts District.
• One of the world's most innovative theatres, the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre will be an unprecedented, "stacked," vertically constructed venue that completely rethinks the traditional form of theatre.
• The new Annette Strauss Artist Square will be home to the city's greatest outdoor performing arts productions.
• The City Performance Hall will provide main stage production space for many of Dallas’ smaller performing arts organizations.
• The new ten-acre Performance Park will surround the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, creating an oasis for visitors.
• An underground parking structure will accommodate 600 vehicles.
• 42 St Museum Tower
• 24 St One Arts Plaza Tower
• 2 More Arts Plaza Towers are planed as well.
• Booker T Washington Center for Performing Arts Expansion
Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre
The Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre will be one of the world’s most innovative theatre facilities. The 12-level building will feature a groundbreaking design with an unprecedented “stacked,” vertically organized facility that completely rethinks the traditional form of theatre.
Unlike a typical theatre setting, this unique design for the Wyly Theatre places these spaces either above or below the auditorium, enabling maximum interaction and flexibility of performance space and seating. The facility’s advanced mechanized “superfly” system can pull up both scenery and seating, allowing artistic directors to rapidly change the venue to a wide array of configurations, including proscenium, thrust, arena, flat floor and traverse, depending on stage configuration. The flexibility of the facility will allow the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts to host a wide range of performances at the Wyly Theatre, including classical and experimental drama, dance and musical productions, world-renowned vocalists, as well as lectures and films.
The interchangeable structural components of the building and transparent exterior will allow for outside pedestrian views into the Wyly Theatre, as well as audience views of the surrounding outdoor areas.
Design of the Wyly Theatre is by REX/OMA, Joshua Prince-Ramus (Partner in Charge) and Rem Koolhaas.
Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House.
Designed by Foster + Partners under Pritzker Prize-winning architect Norman Foster and Senior Design Partner Spencer de Grey, the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House will be engineered specifically for performances of opera and musical theatre, with stages equipped for performances of ballet and other forms of dance.
A 21st century reinterpretation of the traditional “horseshoe” opera house, the 2,200-seat Winspear’s principal performance space, the Margaret McDermott Performance Hall, is designed to be the standard upon which all 21st century opera houses will be measured.
The opera house’s principal entrance, the Gateway, features the Annette and Harold Simmons Signature Glass Façade that ascends to the full 60-foot height of the building creating a seamless flow between the opera house and the surrounding park. The transparent façade provides dramatic views of McDermott Performance Hall, which will be clad in vibrant red glass panels, as well as the Grand Lobby, the staircase and the Mary Anne and Richard Cree Box Circle and Grand Tier levels. From within the Winspear Opera House, the Simmons Glass Façade provides a sweeping view of downtown Dallas.
Radiating from the Winspear Opera House on all sides, the Grand Portico will provide shade over three acres of the Performance Park, creating new outdoor spaces for visitors to gather and relax.
Booker T Washington Center for Performing Arts
Oct 10, 2007, 9:02 PM
this will be an amazing and great asset to the city once it is complete! thanks for posting this!!
Oct 10, 2007, 9:08 PM
this will be an amazing and great asset to the city once it is complete! thanks for posting this!!
Anytime, i need to get some pics of the construction. I would use some pics people have posted in the DallasUrban.com Site but i want to use my own pics, dont like stealing others pics.
Oct 10, 2007, 9:48 PM
Are these all under construction? I dig the Foster opera house.
Oct 10, 2007, 9:57 PM
Are these all under construction? I dig the Foster opera house.
Everything but the Museum Tower and the City Performance Hall are under construction.
Ill pull some pics from there site.
Oct 11, 2007, 7:01 PM
Here is the site for both centers web cams
Oct 12, 2007, 3:12 PM
Oct 15, 2007, 4:43 PM
Nov 17, 2007, 5:02 AM
lots of good stuff round there! that should be a intersting atea to walk through when it complete. hopefully thatll help economy.
Nov 30, 2007, 6:49 AM
To assist in the development of the area, three organizations were formed in 1984:
* The Dallas Arts District Foundation that awards grants to organizations performing or exhibiting in the District;
* Arts District Friends (In keeping with our expanded advertising and promotion of The District on a local, state, national and international level, the Arts District Friends became the Dallas Arts District Alliance in January 2007) which is a membership organization to market and promote the District, and provide programming and educational services for the area, and
* Arts District Management Association to assist in governance of the District.
In June 1989, the City of Dallas endorsed the concept of an artist square in District to provide performance, exhibit, festival and workshop space for the City's cultural organizations and individual artists. Mayor Annette Strauss opened the Square in 1991. Seven years later on December 9, 1998, the Dallas City Council unanimously voted to rename the Square in her honor. In previous years, the Annette Strauss Artist Square has been host to more than 23 artistically diverse, multicultural, multi-generational events. The new Annette Strauss Artist Square is currently under construction and will open in 2009.
In 2005, the District was expanded to 19 blocks and 68.4 acres making it the largest urban arts district in the nation. It is being developed through public and private investments as a mixed-use cultural district.
Currently the Arts District houses many non-profit organizations including the Belo Mansion, Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Fellowship Church, Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, Nasher Sculpture Center, St. Paul United Methodist Church and the Trammell & Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art.
In October, 2009, the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts will complete construction of the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, Annette Strauss Artist Square and Performance Park. At that time, The Dallas Opera and the Dallas Theater Center will begin performing in the District. These world class performance venues will also be home to Anita Martinez Ballet Folklorico, Dallas Black Dance Theatre performances, Texas Ballet Theatre’s Dallas performances and other nationally renowned dance and theater touring companies. A renovated Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and construction of a City Performance Hall for small to mid-size performance groups will complete the cultural facilities in the District.
Commercial real estate in The District includes The Trammell Crow Center and One Arts Plaza (international headquarters for the 7-11 Corporation). Several other commercial developments are under construction or in the development state including Museum Tower, JPI apartments, the Lone Star Site and Two Arts Plaza.
Our organization is truly an alliance of performing and visual arts, business, government and nonprofit entities with a presence in and passion for the Dallas Arts District and it is our intention to reflect that vision and mission.
With the support of the Board of Directors, The Alliance’s long range plan guides marketing, publicity, outreach and programming partnerships for The District. The Alliance is the voice of the Dallas Arts District with a goal of making every household in the Dallas area aware of the opportunities provided by our partners.
Mar 20, 2008, 4:02 PM
Mar 14, 2009, 12:13 PM
Some updated picks from this year...
Video: Construction update for Feb. '09...
Mar 14, 2009, 5:31 PM
Slideshow: Dallas' arts center builds to a crescendo
The Dallas Center for the Performing Arts site is punctuated by the aluminum-pipe-clad box of the Wyly Theatre and the striking red drum of the Winspear Opera House.
Seven months from opening, the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts site is punctuated by the aluminum-pipe-clad box of the Wyly Theatre (above left). Our photographers give you a closer look.
Mar 17, 2009, 6:06 AM
Wow! So, is that museum tower getting built or what?
Mar 17, 2009, 9:49 PM
That's an awesome development! I will check it out next time I am down there. I like the fact they kept it downtown! I like the Wyly theater the best.
Mar 17, 2009, 10:20 PM
That red is so damn cool, you dont see bright red on most buildings anywhere. As long as it not pink.
Mar 24, 2009, 4:46 PM
The Arts School
City Performance Hall under construction
All Together now
Mar 24, 2009, 9:00 PM
Looking good! Thanks for the updated pics.
Mar 24, 2009, 9:59 PM
Thanks for the updates, this is indeed turning out nice!!!!
Apr 9, 2009, 9:50 PM
Jul 6, 2009, 7:52 PM
New Center for Music, Theatre, Dance and Opera Opens with Weeklong Celebration October 12-18, 2009
DALLAS (July 6, 2009) - The much-anticipated Grand Opening of the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts is just 100 days away. The most significant new performing arts complex to be built since New York City¹s Lincoln Center, the $354-million Center opens with a weeklong celebration from October 12 through 18, 2009 to launch its Inaugural Season. Daily outdoor performances, concerts and public art installations will be free and open to the public throughout the week, as will architectural forums with Center architects Norman Foster and Rem Koolhaas. Other highlights include events throughout the Dallas Arts District in recognition of its cultural completion.
The Grand Opening celebrations will begin on the morning of Monday, October 12, 2009, with a civic dedication. Held in the Elaine D. and Charles A. Sammons Park, the 10-acre public park that unifies the venues of the Center, the civic dedication will launch the week of celebratory events. This event will be free and open to the public.
Following the civic dedication and each day throughout the Grand Opening week will be a series of outdoor performances and performance art. Mass Ensemble, a multi-media performance group, will install a large-scale interactive instrument known as the Earth Harp on site, stretching strings from the ground to the roofline of the Center¹s neighbor to the east, the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Mass Ensemble will perform on the instrument throughout the week and the public will be invited to participate and play. Grand Opening week will also feature light shows by Luma and gravity-defying acrobatic performances by Anti-Gravity.
Other highlights of Grand Opening week are two architectural forums presented by the world-renowned architects who designed the venues of the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts and in association with the Dallas Architectural Forum and the Nasher Sculpture Center. Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rem Koolhaas, one of the designers of the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, will discuss the future of theatre design on the afternoon of Thursday, October 15 in the innovative Wyly Theatre. On Friday morning, October 16, Norman Foster, also winner of the Pritzker Prize for Architecture, will present his designs for the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House and Annette Strauss Artist Square. Both of the architectural forums will be free and open to the public.
On Friday evening, October 16, the entire community will be invited to Sammons Park for a free concert by renowned GRAMMY® Award-winning saxophonist David Sanborn. The Grand Opening week will be capped off with the Grand Finale on Sunday, October 18, when the public will have the opportunity to tour the Winspear Opera House and Wyly Theatre, as well as experience a sampling of performances in each venue and in the Park with artists such as Latin GRAMMY® Award-winning flutist Nestor Torres.
Other Celebratory Dallas Arts District Events
In recognition of the cultural completion of the Dallas Arts District, special visual and performing arts events will take place throughout 68-acre district celebrating the opening of the Center. The Nasher Sculpture Center will feature The Art of Architecture: Foster + Partners with a nod to one of the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts' primary architects. The Dallas Museum of Art will present Performance/Art, an exhibition showcasing the work of cntemporary artists who have taken inspiration from the theater and opera in the creation of their painting, sculpture, video, and photography. The exhibition includes work by David Altmejd and Yinka Shonibare, among others, as well as Guillermo Kuitca, whom the Center has also commissioned to design the curtain for the Winspear Opera House. The Crow Collection of Asian Art will host Tibetan lamas, who, painting with sand, will create a mandala in the museum. The Dallas Center for Architecture will present a retrospective of the creation of the Dallas Arts District and the new Center. The Dallas Arts District, in association with the Center for Architecture, will also host walking tours of the District.
On Sunday, October 18, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra will present a free afternoon concert, featuring Beethoven¹s Symphony No. 9, conducted by Music Director Jaap van Zweden. Additional soon-to-be-announced activities will also take place at the Booker T. Washington High School for Performing and Visual Arts, the prized arts magnet high school located in the heart of the Arts District.
Jul 6, 2009, 11:12 PM
Downtown is going to be absurdly busy that entire week. Not only is Oct. 12-18 during the heart of the state fair, but it is the week of the Texas/Oklahoma game and all the activities that entails.
Jul 7, 2009, 2:53 AM
The Wyly Theater from 6/24...
Jul 13, 2009, 6:06 AM
A video tour of the Winspear Opera House under construction, about 100 days away from opening...
Aug 21, 2009, 4:50 PM
Some new photos of all the construction wrapping up:
Sep 26, 2009, 1:12 AM
On the eve of the grand opening, D Magazine has made the new Arts District their cover story and written some outstanding articles about the new venues, how they came about and what we can expect for the future...
The Dallas Arts District: Pulling Back the Curtain
We celebrate a milestone in Dallas history: the opening of the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts.
Shakespeare suggested that to put on a show you need only a “green plot” for a stage and a hedge to act as a dressing room. Perhaps. But isn’t it more fun to do so across 68 acres of a $354 million performing arts complex? This month, Dallas marks an important milestone toward the completion of an idea more than three decades in the making: a downtown Arts District. On October 12, the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts kicks off a weeklong celebration to honor its grand opening, with performances in and around cornerstones old (the DMA, the Meyerson, the Nasher) and new (the Winspear, the Wyly). To mark the occasion, we review what works and what still needs work. We take you backstage for a look at the architects of change. And we celebrate the people whose money and vision have given our city this gift.
Sep 26, 2009, 1:26 AM
The Dallas Edifice Complex
The Winspear Opera House and the Wyly Theatre will change the face of downtown, but will they bring Dallas what it so desperately wants?
by John King
From D Magazine OCT 2009
Architecture can do many things: provide shelter, scrape the sky, make you smile, and make you cringe. It’s the most public art form, the only one we can’t avoid. But architecture can’t perform acts of urban resurrection all alone. Nor can it change the course of history—not even when the buildings are designed by celebrity architects.
Which brings us to the Arts District: 19 blocks, 68 acres, and, as of October 12, home to four cultural facilities designed by winners of the vaunted Pritzker Architecture Prize. Each building in the quartet is genuinely important as a work of architecture, make no mistake, and the two about to open are innovative and ambitious. Even their shortcomings pay dividends, revealing strengths in their predecessors that were easy to take for granted or overlook without the ability to compare and contrast.
These days, though, more is expected of such big-deal debuts as the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, billed to Dutch provocateur Rem Koolhaas, though primarily designed by his protégé Joshua Prince-Ramus. Or the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, designed by Foster + Partners, a firm led by Lord Norman Foster of London. It’s not enough to deliver the structural goods—resonant sound in the case of the Winspear, flexible performance space at the Wyly. The goal is to deliver an Icon.
That means something to generate buzz far beyond Plano or Fort Worth. Step one: starchitects come to town. Step two: the world takes notice. Outsiders—such as yours truly—proclaim that downtown Dallas is finally, firmly On the Map.
Don’t take my word for it. The press kit from the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau confides how “journalists and visitors alike are flocking to the city” that “exemplifies world-class architecture.” The Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, which will operate the Winspear and the Wyly, calls itself “the most significant new performing arts center since New York City’s Lincoln Center.”
Such hyperbole is par for the course in the district, which has been on the drawing boards since 1977. When the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center finally opened in 1989, such a fuss was made locally about the regal limestone box by 1983 Pritzker winner I.M. Pei that one visiting architecture critic began his (favorable) review by taking condescending note of “This city’s latest attempt to assert a cultural presence of international stature.” Fourteen years later, the Nasher Sculpture Center, by Renzo Piano (Pritzker ’98), transfixed the Dallas Morning News editorial page. In those well-lit galleries and tree-shrouded gardens, the writer gleaned a spark “that could transform the world’s opinion of Dallas” and do what “the Guggenheim Museum [did] for Bilbao, Spain.”
Flash forward to 2009, and here’s a reality check: lightning is not about to strike. If you’re looking for a convenient place to explore a range of contemporary architecture, what stands along Flora Street is an intellectual treat. But an arts district does not a city make—especially an arts district trying hard to be anything but the city around it.
It’s too early for a full verdict on the Winspear and the Wyly. Opening night for projects of this sort tend to serve as dress rehearsals, prods to get the big things done while the loose ends are tied up later (at the Meyerson, now so regally assured, I’m told that workers were screwing in chairs the afternoon of the gala premiere, and faux-marble paint covered for stone that hadn’t arrived from Italian quarries). The all-important landscape around the two buildings, the 10-acre Elaine D. and Charles A. Sammons Park, designed by Michel Desvigne of Paris (in collaboration with JJR of Chicago), will barely have taken root—and the plantings were installed during the least hospitable months of the year. But the main moves are in place, the strokes used by each architectural team to try to make its mark on the city.
The drum-shaped sphere of the Winspear offers nighttime drama along Woodall Rodgers Freeway, 105 feet high and clad in vivid red glass, the luminous orb surrounded by a flat metal canopy that stabs out to shade 3 acres around the hall while scalloped blades deflect the sun. The Wyly strikes a much different pose. It could be a silvery glacier on stilts, a compact box with a tight skin of ribbed aluminum except at ground level, where the first 32 of the building’s 132 feet are clad in clear glass and vertical steel mullions.
One newcomer reaches out for attention; the other has a frosty aloofness that dares you to look. The Winspear beckons the public from Flora Street with a glass-clad lobby through which glows that red sphere, amid an urbane realm of lawns, oak trees, and a reflecting pool. The Wyly requires you to descend a ski-slope-steep concrete incline to a lobby with floors of gray concrete, walls of gray concrete and dull aluminum, and light provided by fluorescent tubes hanging like austere icicles. The Crescent it ain’t.
Yet the Wyly likely will receive the most scrutiny from afar, since it is one of the few American building associated with Koolhaas and his Office for Metropolitan Architecture. The theater credits split Koolhaas’ billing with Joshua Prince-Ramus and his firm REX (formerly OMA New York). But Prince-Ramus himself is considered a prospect to watch by the architectural intelligentsia—can the prince upstage the 2000 Pritzker winner?—and that’s part of the hook.
Prince-Ramus describes the genesis of the Wyly’s design in almost clinical terms. “Your best strategy is to create a significant performance as opposed to a significant form,” he says. “A lot of our work centers around the notion that if you focus on ushering forward a process, pushing the limits, you often will come to a conclusion that will transcend.”
With the Wyly, this means striving for a performance space where the relationship between audience and stage can shift from show to show, even act to act. The floor seating can level off or rise in tiers at the push of a button; the three levels of balconies on three sides can move forward or back or disappear, lifted into the rafters using technology devised to adjust stadium scoreboards. Black-out shades will keep light from filtering through the glass walls during a performance—but they can also be raised, so that the stage and the city appear as one.
To follow through on such a vision, Koolhaas and Prince-Ramus took the “obvious” next step: they moved the hall’s back-of-stage elements up and out of the way. There are no windows in the lower portion of the aluminum cube because that’s where the fly spaces are located. Above them, you’ll find the rehearsal hall, the costume shop, and offices.
“The fact that the building is vertical is in total deference to our effort to return the ground plane to something that is malleable,” Prince-Ramus says. “Imagine the last act of Hamlet with the curtains opened to force viewers to confront the play’s relevance to our lives.”
If the past is any guide, the intelligentsia will embrace the Wyly as a symbol of a new century’s need for convention-defying design. When OMA’s Seattle Central Library opened in 2004, then New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp anointed it as “an urban montage of starburst images” in which “social, technical, and psychological goals are fused into form.” One year later, OMA’s Casa da Musica debuted in Portugal, and Muschamp successor Nicolai Ouroussoff crossed the Atlantic to herald “a rationally ordered environment animated by the chaotic social and psychic forces whirling around it.”
In the long run, though, cultural theory is less important than construction and craft, and the Wyly’s deliberate rough edges might wear on patrons who might prefer a bit of pomp.
Cross Flora Street and compare the Wyly to the Meyerson. The lobby of the Meyerson is all about uplift and space, elegant poise. The lines are modern—Pei isn’t one for fussy finishes—but the materials glow, from the warm marble walls to the glamorous staircase that ascends with magisterial sweep. When you arrive, you’ve arrived.
The Wyly does the opposite, pushing down and in, monochromatic and raw. Unless patrons have intervened since my visit, you’ll see spots where metal panels don’t line up precisely with the concrete alongside them (“The architects like the roughness,” my guide said a little sheepishly). And the “grand staircase” here has the feel of entering an attic, tight and dark with the walls clad in chain metal mesh attached to magnetic wallpaper.
None of this is by chance. “By definition, if you don’t want the lobby to impose on the malleability, it has to go beneath the chamber [performance hall],” Prince-Ramus says. But it’s also an artistic conceit, a pretense that there’s no need to put on airs. The floor of the performance hall may be plastic-like polyboard, for instance, easily drilled through or replaced, but those are expensive hydraulic levers under the ground-floor seating.
And the heaviness of the lobby? “It’s the expression of a foundation, the under-area of a building,” Prince-Ramus says. A pause. “That said, the reality is, most architects love concrete.”
The Winspear is more conventional, turning on the charm as well as the flash.
Foster’s forte is high-tech sheen, of the moment but timelessly suave. There’s no better recent example than the 1999 Pritzker laureate’s renovated National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., where the 28,000-square-foot courtyard in the center of the 1836 landmark now is topped by a rippling roof of glass set within a net-like grid. It’s as if a gauzy veil floated into place.
The Winspear doesn’t have the serendipity of that courtyard, or of Foster’s Hearst Tower in New York, with its diagonal trussed form that ascends from a historic stone building with an air of nonchalance. In Dallas, the drama comes from the emphatic canopy, staking out the opera house’s prominence on the scene while also extending an invitation to passersby—an invitation that as planned will include a cafe open during weekdays and accessible through a portion of the lobby where a 70-foot stretch of the glass wall will slide open on nice days.
“We wanted to make sure we designed a building that really said it was public,” says James McGrath, a Foster partner who spent three years in Houston working from the office of Kendall/Heaton, the architect of record for both the Winspear and Wyly. “Not everyone goes to the opera, but lots of people will be in the Arts District.”
In an ideal world, the louvers within the canopy would fully shadow the plaza beneath; to cut costs, alas, “every louver we didn’t need to shade the lobby, we took out,” McGrath says. More conventional trappings fell victim to budget as well: the planks cloaking the underside of the lobby’s zigzagging staircase landings wear white plaster rather than stainless steel. Outside, the dark wall wrapping the rear of the orb is clad in fiberglass-reinforced concrete, the sort of material you’d expect to find in a suburban office park rather than the Arts District.
But these are details for architecture critics to pick at. What opera-goers will notice is the sleek grandeur of the lobby. While staircases slice from one level to the next, the red drum visible from Woodall Rodgers swirls down into the action, with the walls and ceilings of the circulation corridors that punctuate it painted the same sumptuous red. Add 2,200 patrons dressed to impress, and the effect on a good night should resemble a velvet boudoir.
Without resorting to high-culture kitsch, these are operatic moves. “We want it to be eye-catching,” McGrath says of the Winspear. “The red drum helps it stand out. It can’t be mistaken for a commercial or institutional building.”
No danger of that. The drum has the richness of a neon-infused gel, an effect created by scrunching thin layers of heart-red vinyl between two planes of glass. That vibrancy makes it far more arresting on repeat viewings than, say, the swelled-chest prow of the 15-story Hunt Oil Tower five blocks to the west, just outside the district.
At the Wyly, we’ll ignore the metaphorical notion that aluminum tubes in their six different widths evoke a stage curtain. The icy purity of the form is what’s compelling, especially when the tubes thin out ever so slightly across the upper-floor windows of the theater’s costume shop and offices, adding a ghostly sheen.
So far, so good. but to be a catalytic icon—Bilbao’s Guggenheim or the mesmerizing new High Line in New York City, with its 10-block-long promenade above the Meatpacking District on a long-abandoned rail line—a building or intervention needs to be so powerful that it changes your take on everything around it. And despite the infusion of architectural stars, what’s memorable about downtown Dallas isn’t the Pritzker Four. It’s the impression made by the towers in the air and the parking lots on the ground.
Every time I walked from the Magnolia hotel north to Flora Street, there to immerse myself in “the largest urban arts district in the United States” (thank you, Convention & Visitors Bureau), I chose a slightly different route. But the sights were always the same: neck-craning bids for attention, prairies of asphalt with spaces on hire for $5 a day (or less), and lushly planted plazas, their extravagant fountains often putting on a show for me and me alone. Inside the Arts District, the coherent neighborhood shown on a map dissolved into clutter and contradictions.
Certainly that’s the case at Flora and Pearl streets, the intersection that, theoretically, marks the center of the district. On one side stands the Meyerson’s slightly aloof hulk, including a billboard-scaled stone arch that frames the entrance not only to the lobby but also a plaza with abstract sculptures. Off in the distance, to the west, there’s the line of magnolia trees that shrouds the low side wall of the Nasher Sculpture Center and, a block beyond that, the Flora Street entrance to the Dallas Museum of Art.
But to admire the horizon, I need to ignore the other three corners of the intersection: a full block of parking and mostly windowless backsides of a service building for the Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe and the extension to the Belo Mansion. Then there’s Pearl Street itself: six lanes of asphalt made wider still by turning lanes and a parking garage exit and a median. There are tollways more intimate than this.
As planned, Flora Street ties the district together and is keyed to pedestrian scale. The 1983 landscape design by Sasaki Associates includes paving stones, double rows of cypress trees, and circular bollards that are granite on one side and concrete on the other. The dream was “a great street in the European tradition,” to quote one Sasaki planner at the time. Maybe that’s why it feels like an attractive but alien streetscape—in Dallas but not of it.
It’s hard to imagine the new cultural facilities giving Dallas an image makeover, luring urban hipsters to check out the action in—the convention bureau again—“a dynamic cultural destination that is unparalleled in the world.” Nor will middle American families make vacation plans because the Center for the Performing Arts boasts that Dallas is “the only city in the world with buildings designed by four Pritzker prize-winning architects in one contiguous block” (Pearl Street is a mirage?).
Buildings become icons when, by their presence, they redefine the norm, whether as a catalyst or a culmination. But Flora Street and the cultural facilities along it don’t embody any quintessential trait that says “Dallas” to an outsider (at least not this one), the way the High Line unfurls a surreal green perch from which to exult in Manhattan’s layered drama. Nor is it the exuberant counterpoint, the way the Bilbao Guggenheim erupts from an aged city with swirls of titanium that reflect the bay on the other side.
Here’s what the Arts District is instead: a major piece of a puzzle that won’t be finished anytime soon. And that’s okay.
If you doubt me, ask Dallas’ Pritzker star-in-waiting: Thom Mayne, who received the award in 2005 and whose firm Morphosis is designing the Museum of Nature & Science’s new home in Victory Park. “There’s been some discussion about architects remaking cities, and it’s way overstated. We’re much more modest about our aspirations,” says Mayne, who’s based in Santa Monica, outside Los Angeles, a city with a daunting downtown to-do list of its own. “Cultural institutions represent one of the earliest stages of a city moving toward a form that is more cosmopolitan or urban, in the traditional sense.”
At the very least, residents of Dallas and North Texas have a concentrated dollop of the arts to enjoy. The Meyerson is regarded as one of the finest halls in America to hear classical music, and the efforts at the Winspear by Foster + Partners and its acoustician, the London firm Sound Space Design, aim to follow close behind. If the dexterous staging of the Wyly lives up to creators’ hopes, the facility could influence theater design in the decade to come.
There’s also the Dallas Museum of Art from 1984, designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes and the first cultural institution to put down roots in the district. No Pritzker is attached—though Barnes did receive a posthumous Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects in 2007—and the exterior is glum, with walls of limestone that manage to look like concrete. Inside, though, the galleries offer an orderly procession of treats.
And then there’s the Nasher, architecturally the most sublime building in the Arts District—not just for Piano’s spare design (five thick lines of creamy travertine, clear glass walls between them, topped by gently bowed skylit glass, and that’s about it), but also the choreographed landscape by Peter Walker & Partners of Berkeley, California. It transports you from downtown Dallas into some deceptively natural retreat, a spell only enhanced by the works of such sculptural masters as Richard Serra and Jonathan Borofsky.
The fact that none of this happened exactly as hoped back in 1977 doesn’t matter. Because as Mayne says, cities evolve. Downtown Dallas has a long way to go, and the mistakes of the past aren’t easily healed (how much parking does one city need?). There’s a disturbing tendency to keep pursuing the next big fix, the intervention that will change things once and for all.
The closest example at hand lies directly north of the Arts District, where Woodall Rodgers Park will cap the freeway between Pearl and St. Paul streets with 5 acres of public open space.
It’s an attractive notion, a way to begin making Uptown and downtown feel like one large urban district. But several people suggested to me that what’s scheduled to open in 2011 will be the local equivalent of Millennium Park in Chicago. Not likely, since that capped railway yard is hemmed tight by blocks far denser than any in Dallas, with the added bonus of a lakefront on one side. And if Woodall Rodgers does become what the project website describes as an “urban oasis” of “professionals enjoying lunch, friends taking in a movie on an outdoor screen, or couples enjoying a relaxing stroll,” isn’t that the same bright scenario sketched for Sammons Park enfolding the Wyly and the Winspear? (Another heretical thought: how much park does one city need?)
Still, I saw plenty of examples of Dallas growing right, an almost organic threading of housing and commerce amid the flamboyance of the past. One Arts Plaza at the east end of Flora Street isn’t great architecture, but it gets the basics right—stepping low at Routh Street to ring an auto courtyard with restaurants and outdoor seating. Another nice touch: the condominiums that occupy the top seven of the slab’s 24 stories are visually distinct, with balconies scooped into the façade. You can imagine perching in one at the end of the day, a cool drink close by.
In downtown’s core, meanwhile, the future lies in such recently completed projects as Mercantile Place—an apartment complex that pairs the restoration of the sentimental 31-story landmark tower from 1942, spire on top and all, with a new and cleanly modern 15-story companion. Designed by BGO Architects for Forest City Enterprises, the project brings new and old together in a single airy lobby marked on the street by copper-panel accents that continue across the top of the new building’s storefronts. With time, the storefronts should fill; for now, there’s action around the elevated pool that helps nudge renters to sign a full-year lease. Again, the block won’t make the cover of Architectural Record. But it’s a smart way to grow.
That’s how cities are mended: piece by piece, swatch by swatch. Fill in the blanks with style and deference. When the Next Big Thing has come and gone, like the banks that originally inhabited all those granite-flaunting towers, good urbanism will remain.
“What’s fascinating is that downtown Dallas now has all these institutions in place,” Mayne says. “They’re waiting for the city.”
While they wait, the Pritzker four offer something that is unique to Dallas: a remarkably concentrated do-it-yourself seminar on what makes the best architecture endure. The contemporary forms might put off visitors left cold by anything edgier than the SMU Campus, but each building shows how architecture can resonate beyond opening night, tapping all of your senses.
Such as touch.
At the Meyerson, the lobby with its commanding scale and smooth luxury is meant to be dazzling, a sanctuary of high culture. But after you ascend the staircase and enter the performance hall, a brush with the handrail brings a delicate surprise: the railing is sheathed in thin velvet. Aloof becomes intimate.
There’s a similar encounter at the Wyly. The staircase past the dour lobby is dark but also exotic with the chain metal mesh that covers the walls. Better yet, the mesh is waiting to be tugged. Give it a pull, and it scrimps out, to be rearranged night after night in an infinite number of ways. It’s as malleable as the performance hall supposedly will be, but playful as well.
The Meyerson opened at the height of Pei’s career, the same year as his addition to the Louvre in Paris, and it has all the ease of a veteran who had mastered his own brand of geometric modernism. Prince-Ramus, by contrast, has much to prove. His building wants to score points, not sum up.
One structure is assured, imperial yet relaxed. The other is crammed tight with ideas and twists. Some are spot on, such as the chain mesh. Others went askew—as on the ninth-floor outdoor terrace, where the idea was to cloak the floor, walls, and ceiling with artificial turf. Building inspectors let the flooring stay; the rest has been replaced by a green fire-resistant fiberglass.
This call-and-response doesn’t stop at the district’s borders. The Wyly’s tight curtain of vertical tubing evokes, consciously or not, the thinly spaced mullions of the Federal Reserve Bank just north of Woodall Rodgers, on Pearl Street, a handsome 17-story tower from 1992 designed by Kohn Pederson Fox. The Winspear canopy cuts even farther into the city, a large-scale tribute to the ad hoc urbanism you find in a neighborhood like Oak Cliff, where diners are being reborn as watering holes, the open-sided shelters that once shaded autos now used to create open-air lanais, Texas style.
Or you can leave it all behind and retreat to the Nasher, an exquisite case study of how in the best buildings, no detail is left to chance. The shiny trunks of the crepe myrtles along Flora Street offer far more beguiling views inside than if Peter Walker had gone with the cypress of the Sasaki plan. The eroded surfaces of the water-blasted travertine—as haphazardly nuanced as a topographical map—are more alluring than all of downtown’s marble lobbies combined. The spare weave of cables that holds the bowed ceilings in place is as artistic as some of the sculptures on display.
Even the vents in the floor reward a second look. Instead of being interrupted by metal grills, the oak-plank floor smoothly flows across each vent, sliced as needed to circulate air. Which brings to mind those ghostly screened windows at the Wyly, now that I come to think of it.
Architecture can’t save the world. It can’t turn a city around. But it can teach you to view the world and the city with fresher, sharper eyes. And in that respect, here, Dallas is blessed.
John King is the San Francisco Chronicle’s urban design writer and two-time finalist for the Pritzker Prize in Criticism. He was born in Dallas.
Sep 26, 2009, 1:38 AM
How to Raise $335 Million
Bill Lively deserves absolutely no credit for raising hundreds of millions of dollars for the Dallas Arts District. Really.
by Pamela Gwyn Kripke
From D Magazine OCT 2009
In the world of fundraising, it’s called “the ask,” the point at which the supplicant, after explaining the worthiness of his cause, puts his request in concrete terms. He asks for a check. Maybe the loftiest appeal in Dallas’ history was made by Bill Lively—though he refuses to take credit for it.
This was sometime in 2002. The Dallas Center for the Performing Arts needed money for an opera hall. Back then, there were no models, no renderings of that stunning crimson glass drum. Just a need. So Harvey Mitchell, the chairman of the DCPA board, and Bill Lively, its president and CEO, went to see Bill Winspear. The Canadian-born Winspear had made a fortune in manufacturing, and he was an ardent supporter of the Dallas Opera. After weeks of meetings, it was time for the ask.
“From you,” Mitchell said, “we’ve got to get a big gift to kick this thing off. We need $30 million.”
Winspear was aghast. He had in mind a much lower figure. Who knows? Five million? Ten, tops. It was clear that the request had startled him, so they explained why it was necessary. In terms of how much they wanted to raise, $275 million, it was just a start. But they needed a big start, a gift massive enough to draw the others in. It took an hour, but, finally, Winspear came around. He agreed to give $30 million.
Which was when Lively, to Mitchell’s surprise, said, “You know, Bill, the largest private gift in Dallas’ history is $40 million. We could really use $42 million.”
And that, without much exaggeration, was how the Arts District became what it is today. Bill Winspear made history. He died in 2007, before getting a chance to see an opera in the hall that bears his name. But his $42 million gift, then the largest one-time private donation in Dallas’ history, created the momentum that has so far brought in $335 million and changed the landscape of downtown Dallas.
That’s what Lively wants you to know. Winspear deserves the credit, not him. In fact, Lively wasn’t the one who told me this story, and he’d prefer not to see it in print. Humility lifts from Lively like vibrato from a tenor. It is never a solo, always a chorus. And it was learned early, in Oak Cliff.
“In fourth grade, my mother told me I had every reason to be humble,” says Lively, one of four brothers. “I never forgot that. Nothing significant that I have done in my lifetime, have I done by myself. If you have an ego, you fail.” His mom was an English teacher, his father a band director before going to work for a life insurance company after World War II. In a fifth-grade art class, Lively saw a film about the New York Philharmonic. Leonard Bernstein was conducting. Soon after, he joined the school band, playing trumpet.
“I had never heard music like that. Now I think, if I could be so inspired by such a crude representation as a black-and-white school film, imagine what something like the Performing Arts Center can do for children here.”
Lively graduated from SMU in 1965 with a bachelor of arts in music. In 1970, he received a master’s degree in education from the University of North Texas. At age 27, he returned to the place where he first picked up his horn, W.E. Greiner Junior High, to direct the school band.
“Those kids were one of the great joys of my life. They could do anything, but they didn’t know it,” he says, smiling. Lively divided the group into low woodwinds, high woodwinds, low brass and high, and rehearsed in sections. They analyzed the music, took it apart, put it together again. “Da da dee da,” he sings, hands pressing the air around him. The march from Patton. “We worked hard and long, and focused. I recorded the piece and sent it to WRR, and they played it on the radio. Every day was a revelation.”
Lively took his passion back to SMU, where he became the director of bands, associate dean of the Meadows School for the Arts, and, ultimately, vice president of development. “I didn’t know why I was asked to do that. I didn’t know where the office was,” he says. “I thought it was crazy, but they wanted someone to reshape the philanthropic culture in a different way, so I turned it into a stewardship. We thanked people as much as we asked them.”
Though analytical and process-driven by nature—“I am strategic when I am putting my socks on, and I know that is not necessary”—it was at SMU that Lively honed a method for rallying people to contribute to a cause. At its core is his own accountability. “Leadership is not a science. It is an art,” he says, neat and trim in a crisp white shirt. He organizes it into four steps: “First, define the project in a compelling way. Second, outline the project with a plan written by many authors. Third, and most critical, appoint a legion of volunteers with credentials, prestige, honor, and money. Fourth, provide a timeline within which people can embrace the plan.”
But the story of Bill Lively is not so much about how he gathers money for worthy projects. It is not simply the process of charting a course and achieving results, checking the box and moving along, though his strategic thinking is legendary. His story is about engaging the basic desire people have to advance great change, to do great things.
“If you approach him with something that inspires him, he will turn around and inspire you to do something that you were absolutely sure that you could never do,” says Frank Risch, chairman of the board of the Dallas Theater Center and former vice president and treasurer of Exxon Mobil Corporation. “Somehow, he makes it look as if it were meant to be.” Risch, who went to Lively with a gift in mind, emerged from a hard-hat tour convinced he needed to increase his donation. “It was just Bill, inspiring my wife and me to a level of commitment we would never have guessed we’d be undertaking. We know we did the right thing, but we’re still wondering, ‘What is it about that guy?’”
So the impact endures beyond the building or the play on the stage. It remains in the hearts and psyches of an appreciative community. And though he will say he “never had a career ladder” or “was completely unqualified” for the task at hand or should “take no credit” for what he has orchestrated, he will say his triumphs depend upon the prowess of others.
At SMU, the Center for the Performing Arts, and, now, the 2011 Super Bowl Host Committee, where, as the president and CEO, he is spearheading efforts to secure corporate sponsorships, Lively has relied on prominent citizens to approach potential donors. “It is not hard to say no to Bill. But it is harder to say no to the people Bill takes with him,” Lively says. “When you show up with Roger, Troy, Emmitt, and Daryl, they are giving their money to Roger, Troy, Emmitt, and Daryl. I redefine the word ‘superflous.’”
Lively, despite his modesty, is often asked to sprinkle a little stardust on other nonprofit organizations seeking to do their own great work. If he can help, he does. “He genuinely wants to leave the world in a better place,” says Rowland K. Robinson, president of the Baylor Health Care System Foundation, who in January enlisted Lively’s assistance in a philanthropic campaign. “Over the past several months, he has studied a lot about health care. He has a huge heart for his projects.”
He has also devoted time to the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center of Education and Tolerance, and is accepting the organization’s Hope for Humanity honor next month. “When we told him about the award over lunch, he paused, took off his glasses, and wiped his eye with his napkin,” says Risch, who serves on the board. “Then he asked to bring his family to the museum so that they could understand what the honor means. In typical fashion, he made us feel special.”
For the American Prairie Foundation in Bozeman, Montana, which is piecing together fragmented public land in the Northern Great Plains into a 5,000-square-mile wildlife preserve, Lively has transformed a personal love for American history into true work. “Bill is able to explain a project of this scope and articulate it so people understand the purpose of it, why it is meaningful, why it is critically important, and important at this time,” says Sean Gerrity, president of the foundation. “He is a great mentor to us.”
The goal is to return the land to how Lewis and Clark found it in 1805. Lively has read 28 books about the explorers’ expedition to the Pacific Coast. Soon, he will take a flat-bottom boat journey up the Missouri River, camping on the banks at night, seeing the white cliffs, bison, and elk.
When he was a kid, Lively’s dad took him hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. Since then, he has trekked all over the world. A photograph of the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, cast in early morning sunlight, hangs on the wall behind his desk. About 10 years ago, at 55, he climbed 19,340 feet to the top. It was 5 degrees below zero. “It was painful, but it was the greatest adventure, ethereal, strange, exhilarating. I knew I wouldn’t be first, but I’d get there,” he says. “I didn’t travel 6,000 miles to Tanzania to fail.”
This past summer, Lively took three of his 10 grandchildren back to Colorado, to hike and climb, to navigate their way through rocky terrain and spruce fir forests, to shoot for Flattop Mountain, 12,324 feet up. “We’ll talk about ecosystems and wildlife,” he said before leaving, “about why trees stop growing, about why the bark is twisted on the ponderosa, why the leaves grow only on one side. We’ll do what my dad did for me.”
The first day, they took an old fire trail seldom used by civilized man to a lake deep in Glacier Gorge, hiking a little more than 6 miles. “The little guys, whose ages range from 13 to 9, did great. We made the lake, drank our water, ate energy bars, and came down. Later that night, the youngest of the boys responded to the day’s adventure by asking, ‘Granddaddy, do you think we could climb a smaller mountain tomorrow?’”
Lively decided to postpone the climb up Hallett until “legs are longer and lungs are bigger.” The summit will wait. But knowing Lively, not for too long.
Pamela Gwyn Kripke contributes to the New York Times. She runs the blog likeasinglemom.wordpress.com. Write to email@example.com.
Sep 26, 2009, 1:42 AM
We Have an Arts District. Now We Need a Neighborhood.
Before that corner of downtown really comes to life, here’s what needs to happen.
by Peter Simek
From D Magazine OCT 2009
Kevin Lynch picked the site. November 10, 1977, was the urban planning consultant’s day before the Dallas City Council. Lynch’s consulting firm had spent months surveying Dallas, studying the way people moved and interacted with Dallas’ built environment, trying to pinpoint the ideal location for what his client wanted: an “arts district.” The city didn’t just want a plot for its cultural centers. It dreamed of a neighborhood centered on a great green space, an urban oasis where people could gather, dally, and absorb the culture.
By the time city leaders set Lynch to the task of picking out a site, the MIT professor was nearing the end of a prestigious career in urban planning. He had studied under Frank Lloyd Wright, and his book, The Image of the City, was acclaimed for its careful attention to the way in which people understand the layout of place. Lynch was the most well-known city planner to tackle Dallas’ long-standing urban problem—revitalizing downtown—since Vincent Ponte, the man behind the underground shopping malls and elevated walkways connecting the office buildings in Dallas’ Central Business District. In hindsight, Ponte seems like a crackpot, but in 1968 the front cover of a regional edition of Esquire declared: “Vincent Ponte should have his way with Dallas.” Ponte did, and we are still trying to recover from it.
Lynch’s ideas about city planning were more progressive than Ponte’s insofar as they looked backward at how great cities have worked instead of forward, like Ponte’s, into some hazy notion of an urban utopia. So on that November day in 1977, Lynch made his recommendation: the Arts District, he told Mayor Robert Folsom and the rest of the Dallas City Council, should be built on a swath of empty concrete in the northeast corner of the Central Business District, a site pushed up against two freeways and speckled with a few remaining historical buildings, such as the Belo Mansion and the Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe—reminders of a time when Ross Avenue boasted a row of prominent homes and notable residents.
On the surface, Lynch’s pick seemed an odd choice. What about Fair Park, the several potential sites along Turtle Creek, or the land adjacent to the convention center? But Lynch saw the site and the Arts District project as an opportunity to take a crack at one of downtown Dallas’ biggest obstacles, its isolation from the rest of the city, cut off by a ring of highways. “There are ample sites here to choose from, and it is possible to bridge out of the freeway ring at that point,” Lynch told the Council. At the location he recommended, Lynch continued, new buildings could be mixed with existing historic landmarks and planned commercial buildings to help generate 24-hour activity downtown.
If correctly designed, Lynch figured, the Arts District could function as the nucleus of a neighborhood that stretched under the highways, drawing life into downtown. On the scrappy section of land just south of Woodall Rodgers Freeway, Lynch saw it perfectly: an escape route from the center of Dallas.
The 46th floor of 2200 Ross Avenue (better known as the downtown skyscraper with the hole in it) houses the offices of Downtown Dallas, the nonprofit organization established in 1992 to champion a revitalization of the city’s urban core. The office features floor-to-ceiling windows that look out at a great expanse of tan and brown land that curves gently and disappears over a far-off horizon. Standing with Veletta Forsythe Lill in the conference room overlooking the Arts District, I feel a little like one of the angels from Wim Wenders’ 1989 film Wings of Desire who hover over the melancholic Berlin landscape, silent witnesses to the drama unfolding below. Lill is the executive director of the Dallas Arts District, one of a number of organizations with overlapping interests in the development of the area. “Think of us as a great homeowners association,” she says. “I act as the president. I bring everyone together.”
There is a great desire to think of the Arts District as a neighborhood, perhaps more so than when Kevin Lynch scouted the site. These days, the talk is of a pedestrian-friendly, Jane Jacobs-style neighborhood, with apartment dwellers browsing in shops that line streets leading into the Arts District. “Up until this point, additions had been made to the district, but it didn’t quite gel,” Lill says. “Today you can see a true sense of neighborhood. There’s a real sense of camaraderie, largely because people can truly see it as a neighborhood right now.”
There are still some holes, such as the circle of concrete off Pearl Street, which is slated as the future home of Museum Tower, a high-rise residential development; and the jagged roof of the underground parking lot on Ross, across from the Cathedral, which Lill says will eventually be capped with another residential development. In fact, when talking about the Arts District as a neighborhood, that’s the problem: there are few places for people to live.
Lill is aware of this. She admits there is work to be done, and she quickly ticks off a half-dozen projects, like the widening of sidewalks on Pearl Street, the creation of pedestrian linkages with retail shops between the district and the DART line on Bryan Street, and more residential housing, preferably offering apartments for a range of incomes. “I think it is important that we try to have some space where artists can live,” Lill says.
So while the city gears up for the opening of the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts this month, the people involved with growing the Arts District are talking about 2011. By that time, this scene will include a deck park over Woodall Rodgers Freeway, opening visual and more pedestrian-friendly access to Uptown. Lill also hopes to see progress on Museum Tower by then, as well as developments on some of the vacant parking lots surrounding the district.
“I think there is plenty of empirical data that shows investment is drawn to areas around cultural neighborhoods,” Lill says. “Not only is it good for the community, it is good for [developers’] pocketbooks.”
The Arts District is still a vision in progress, says Mark Nerenhausen, president and CEO of the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts. “What is interesting about these projects is that the focus is on the buildings, but when you start looking at the future vision, really it is about a much larger community vision coalescing around the buildings,” he says. “Really, what we are talking about here is fulfilling and really launching a vision that is a generation old.”
That vision transcends the scene on the ground, the way the physical presence of the Arts District will impact the real estate in and around downtown. Nerenhausen came to Dallas from the Broward County Center for the Performing Arts, a similar project in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In Broward County, Nerenhausen helped leverage the weight of a gorilla-sized arts development to create a larger impact on the local culture. His organization established operational efficiencies among the various arts organizations within and outside the district (such as uniform ticketing and expanded marketing), and it created international partnerships that raised the profile of the South Florida arts scene abroad.
“A performing arts center is both a place—it provides a geographic focus for a city—and, also, the performing arts center of the 21st century, without sounding too esoteric, is an organizing principle or a system,” Nerenhausen says. “We can help a lot of other arts groups without being hierarchical. It’s almost like more of an Internet model, like hyperlinks.” In the old model, Nerenhausen says, arts organizations established formal partnerships when working together with contracts and the rest. “Now there are multiple points of entry,” he says.
Nerenhausen sees the arts district as a unifying force that functions as a reference point for the city’s culture at large. He points to recent efforts in Singapore and London to build centralized arts locations as an indication that even established centers of international finance see the value in an arts district in raising a city status. “I don’t think single-handedly we change what a city does,” he says. “But if I look at this center or look at other major centers, we understand that we have a significant role to play in a direct sense.”
Nerenhausen’s vision for the Arts District unfolds in decades, not months or years. First there was a decade of what he calls “vision building,” then a decade of fundraising, followed by a decade of planning for the construction of the buildings. With most of the structures built, the next few decades will be spent growing out the Arts District as urban neighborhood.
“It will be something that helps revitalize downtown,” he says. “That’s a park; it is the largest urban park in the city. We’ve changed how downtown feels. There are going to be merchants who go, ‘I couldn’t care less about the arts, but it is good for my business.’”
In other words: if we build it, they will come.
One can’t help but admire the dream, and with the finishing touches being put on the new buildings, it is hard not to be swept up in the enthusiasm. But Kevin Lynch’s vision of the district as a neighborhood bridge between downtown and Uptown, as an arts-fed catalyst for revitalizing and “re-residentializing” the city center is a long way from being realized.
Back on the ground, crossing Ross and heading up Pearl Street to Flora, I am trying to stay sensitive to Lynch’s concept of “place legibility.” In cities, Lynch wrote, we move not only through a physical environment but through a mental representation, a cognitive map made up of our memories. This map consists of a network of paths, edges, districts, nodes, and landmarks. The density of features, of memorable pedestrian encounters, makes a vivid city; the lack of such features leads to an urban space lacking in distinctness and identity, Lynch argued.
What is noticeable about walking the Arts District today is how much pedestrian space there is between the collection of distinctive features. From the elegant plaza and façade of the cathedral, you walk down a wide and busy Pearl Street, lined with the red-brick side of the cathedral on one side and the nondescript gray walls of the Belo Mansion on the other. Turning left on Flora toward the Dallas Museum of Art, the walk takes you past a parking lot on the right and more of the Belo’s gray walls on the left. There are a few windows along the way looking into neatly kept offices, one of which displays a model of the proposed Museum Tower development. At the end of the street, the front doors of the Nasher and the Crow Collection of Asian Art look at each other, and across Harwood there is another open space leading into the DMA. The streetscapes here are elegant and pleasing, but they do not invite lingering, especially on a hot August day.
It is much the same headed the other direction down Flora: well-imagined outdoor lobby spaces abutting undeveloped parking sites. The Arts District is being touted as the largest of its kind at 70 acres, and on the ground, you can feel it. But the design and layout of the buildings, the flow of traffic on the north-south streets that intersect Flora, and the sheer size of the place dampen any desire to veer off course and explore surrounding streets. This may be simply because right now there isn’t much to explore off Flora Street besides the lobbies of towering office buildings and vacant lots. More troubling is the confusion one feels navigating from Flora to the future site of Woodall Rodgers Park. The walls of the Nasher line Olive and Harwood streets, making for an uneventful pedestrian trek up from Flora. None of the museums along the future park site have openings onto the park (though there is some talk that the DMA and Nasher will create access from their sites), and most of the Arts District will still abut open freeway after Pearl Street, even after the park opens.
All this walking makes me wonder how the new Arts District space will function in the early going. Jane Jacobs’ classic urban study, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, can be broken down into a single, simple concept: great cities thrive on neighborhoods that encourage pedestrian traffic, traffic that offers many eyes to keep streets safe and many intersecting actions to keep places interesting. This is best achieved in neighborhoods where a variety of uses—from residential and recreational to office and retail—creates a web of interweaving activity. But on the ground, the Arts District looks like it will remain an entertainment destination. Some people may arrive at the performance halls after trekking up from the DART stations on Bryan. Some workers from nearby office buildings will take their sandwiches to a bench in the district during their lunch hours. But the vast majority of visitors will drive in, park in one of the underground lots, and walk up to an event. Festivals and public gatherings may be organized in the district’s open space, but when they finish, the area will vacate, and for large portions of the day, the Arts District and the surrounding streets will remain quiet and untraveled.
And so with the opening of the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, the decades-old vision of a vibrant downtown neighborhood remains a dream. Perhaps you can blame the economic slowdown for stalling adjacent development. Perhaps this is how it had to happen all along. Build the Arts District, and the neighborhood will indeed follow.
Mark Nerenhausen says he saw the progression in Florida. After the Broward County Center for the Performing Arts was built, development followed. But Nerenhausen adds that despite the Arts District’s potential for spurring a vibrant downtown neighborhood, the district has a much wider and deeper impact on the life of the city. “These places don’t happen unless the community on some scale understands the role that culture plays in the larger sense of what a community really is—an identity and who we really are,” he says.
He points to the tiny 19th-century Texas towns that, after building courthouses and city halls, built opera houses or community theaters. “What we’re doing is nothing new,” he says. “It is an age-old mode of people around the world.”
And in that sense, it may not matter whether the Arts District is able to create a downtown neighborhood modeled off the walkable environments so loved in other cities. Perhaps after decades of revisioning efforts, starts and stops, streams of consultants trying to turn Dallas into a “real city,” the Arts District will instead give us something else, something that helps define us, something that makes us proud of this place—of what we have been able to accomplish thus far.
Peter Simek is editor in chief of the arts and culture site Renegade Bus. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sep 26, 2009, 1:58 AM
Oct 3, 2009, 1:00 AM
Deep in the Art of Texas
By Cathleen McGuigan | NEWSWEEK
Published Oct 2, 2009
From the magazine issue dated Oct 12, 2009
When President Eisenhower stuck a silver shovel in the dirt at the groundbreaking for Lincoln Center in 1959, he talked about America's desire to share "the good things of life with all our citizens." The architects of the arts complex apparently didn't get the message. Built on an urban-renewal site—West Side Story was filmed there just before the bulldozers arrived to tear down the tenements—Lincoln Center turned its back on the neighborhood. Its travertine, colonnaded buildings were set high on a podium with fortress-like walls, creating an Acropolis of the arts that might as well have posted a NO LOITERING sign for any Sharks or Jets still hanging in the 'hood. Patrons of opera or ballet could drive into its vast garage underneath the various performance spaces and never set foot on the surrounding mean streets.
Lincoln Center is still the country's premier cultural complex, but it's getting competition from an ambitious project in—are you ready for it, New Yorkers?—Dallas. This month the Dallas center for the performing arts is unveiling a new 2,200-seat opera house designed by Foster + Partners and an innovative theater by Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus, the culmination of an ambitious plan that already includes three museums, a concert hall, and an arts high school. Dallas has managed to avoid the grandiose errors of its New York forebear with a pedestrian-friendly layout, generous public spaces, and architecture that begs for your attention. You get a sense of that openness in the new Winspear Opera House, with its gigantic drum covered in blood-red glass panels that encloses the house and backstage. Around it is a glassed-in lobby and café that will open onto a park, shaded by a four-acre solar canopy, de-signed to lure people out of the Texas sun and into the opera house. "We were very keen to break down the barriers between inside and outside," says the project architect, Spencer de Grey. "We wanted this not to be a temple to high culture but to invite everyone in."
No one would deny what a stunning addition the new theater and opera house are to the cultural landscape. The Wyly Theatre is a radical design that stacks the technical necessities above and below the performance area, rather than around it. The flexible ground-floor performing space is turned into a fishbowl, walled on three sides in soundproof glass that can open to the outdoors. But the new performing complex, which cost $354 million, is about more than art for art's sake. When the entire arts district was mapped out in a Dallas city plan in the 1980s, the site was a sea of parking lots wedged between a freeway and the business district. De Grey, a Londoner, recalls one of his first trips to Dallas, when he emerged from "a downtown restaurant at 9 o'clock and there wasn't a soul on the street." More recently, downtown has become home to young urbanites lured by gentrification; the expanded arts center has surely helped spark the trend and is expected to attract more development. "On a Saturday morning you can go downtown and everyone is out on the street, walking their dog, going to the gym," says Lawrence Speck, former dean of the University of Texas architecture school. "It's miraculous." But that miracle raises some questions: Can culture really do double duty as an urban-renaissance project? And should that be central to the mission of arts companies?
Certainly it can be—in some places. The most startling example is Bilbao, the gritty Spanish city that became the cultural equivalent of Lourdes when Frank Gehry and his shiny Guggenheim museum came to town. Two years ago the Seattle Art Museum opened the waterfront Olympic Sculpture Park; in Chicago, Renzo Piano's design for a new wing of the Art Institute included a pedestrian bridge to link it to Millennium Park. Even Lincoln Center has seen the error of its original plans. The dark, mean lobby of Alice Tully Hall has been transformed into a soaring, glassed-in space with a public bar and café that's become a hot neighborhood hangout. Elsewhere, some of the center's entrances and plazas are being remodeled. "All the gestures have to do with making good on the 'publicness' of public spaces," says Liz Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the architects overseeing the renovation. Of course, Chicago, Seattle, and New York already had a vibrant street life; opening arts buildings to the city is as much an effort to address the mistakes of the past as to alter the future. Dallas audiences will certainly explore the new complex and the surrounding public space. But weaving it all together to create a dense and urbane neigh-borhood requires more than dramatic buildings by famous architects. Ask the people in another car-centric city: Los Angeles, where the vaunted Disney Concert Hall (also by Gehry) has had almost no effect on creating a street life downtown, even though Gehry proposed a plan, never instigated, to help do just that. "It's almost impossible to design a city," Piano, architect of the Nasher Sculpture Center in the Dallas arts district, once said. "What makes a city beautiful is that it's not designed. Time makes cities beautiful."
What about the heart of the matter—the art? Clearly, the people running Lincoln Center, the Dallas center, and other cultural complexes are trying to entice audiences away from their iPods, plasma screens, and laptops. Arts institutions can't afford to be lonely islands of high culture, which is why we now have Madama Butterfly simulcast in movie theaters, and late date nights at museums. But it's debatable whether the arts themselves profit, other than at the box office. Sure, Dallas has created a destination for culture vultures, especially those who want to look at pretty buildings. But what about what's going on inside? All those millions could buy a lot of topflight performing talent and galleries full of art. But we've come to expect ultracool design in our temples of culture, even if we no longer put them on a pedestal.
Oct 3, 2009, 7:30 AM
Awesome looks like we have some competition...
Oct 9, 2009, 2:59 PM
Opening next week!
The Winspear chandelier:
The Winspear curtain:
Oct 12, 2009, 10:12 PM
AT&T Performing Arts Center was dedicated today!
Winspear Opera House: Sleek venue welcomes patrons with sonic, visual intimacy
02:16 PM CDT on Sunday, October 11, 2009
By SCOTT CANTRELL / The Dallas Morning News
The Winspear is a huge presence, spreading a finned sunscreen far beyond its functional footprint. The ruby-red inner drum, rising through the lobby and projecting above, is the Arts District's sole splash of color – and one of far too few anywhere near downtown.
But the Winspear, in effect a sleek modern interpretation of a Greek temple with portico, is also by far the most welcoming building in the Arts District.
That sheltering canopy, 60 feet above placid lawns punctuated with patches of native grasses and wide walkways, draws us in. So does the expanse of ground-to-roof glass wrapping a lobby crisscrossed with free-floating staircases that spin out multiple terraces. Glowing night and day, the red-glass core exudes excitement and mystery.
"Very much at the heart of what we're trying to do," says Spencer de Grey, an opera fan who headed Foster + Partners' design team for the Winspear, "is making the building not one that you have to pluck up your courage and enter, but very transparent."
That part of the design looks like an unqualified success, although visitors will ever wonder why the canopy fins vary so much in density. (Their main purpose is to shade the building from the blazing Dallas sun; they're sparer on the fringes.)
And bully for de Grey's insistence that even patrons parking in the underground garage enter the opera house through the same front doors as people walking in off the street. The elevators and escalator from the garage open into a glass-roofed porte-cochère leading into the lobby.
Apart from that ruby-red drum, rotated off the entrance axis, everything in the lobby is silver or gray. But stand just about anywhere on the ground floor and look up, and you'll see a lively counterpoint of grids and fan shapes. If the building draws you in from outside, on the inside it seems to draw all of Dallas inside, too. Views in all directions are exhilarating.
On the east side of the lobby will be a cafe, with three sections of glass wall that can be raised for an 84-foot opening to the outdoors. Above will be a sit-down restaurant, with smart flying-saucer lights hung overhead. A compact lecture-and-performance hall opens to the lobby and the outdoors.
As yet unseen are the stage curtain, decorated with colored squiggles by Argentine artist Guillermo Kuitca, and the chandelier, an inverted cone of 320 lighted acrylic tubes that can retract into pinpricks of light.
How the Winspear meets its ultimate acoustical tests won't be known until this week's first performances, and, really, until the Dallas Opera mounts its season-opening Otello, starting Oct. 23. But reports from an initial tryout rehearsal are glowing.
Wyly Theatre: Top to bottom, a vertical display of industrial rawness
02:24 PM CDT on Sunday, October 11, 2009
By DAVID DILLON / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News
The Wyly packs a lot of architectural punch into a small space. At nine stories – roughly 130 feet – it looks much taller than it is. That's because a little height goes a long way in the horizontal Arts District and because its silvery aluminum skin flows upward to a line of skyscrapers in the background, borrowing height from its neighbors.
Knowing that the Wyly could be upstaged by the Meyerson Symphony Center and the Winspear, architects Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus chose to go up rather than out, stacking lobby, stage, costume shop and offices on top of one another like hat boxes. Koolhaas has been playing the vertical city game since the publication of Delirious New York in the 1970s, and here was his chance to try it in the Wild West.
It is an unconventional plan, intriguing and high-risk, and right now it's impossible to know whether to grade it an "A" or an "F." The Wyly has been designed as a machine for performance that will challenge directors and probably confound some patrons with its industrial rawness and tight interior spaces, especially the single narrow staircase connecting lobby to main stage and a set of small, pokey elevators.
The moment you walk down the dust pan ramp from Flora Street to the lobby –one of the strangest theater entrances ever – you feel you've entered an engine room. No sofas and swag and warm soothing colors; only concrete floors and walls, sleek aluminum canopies and bare fluorescent tubes hanging from the ceiling like Luke Skywalker light sabers. This is tough, take-that architecture, uneven in its craftsmanship – the perfect joint has never been Koolhaas' grail – yet executed with admirable consistency from bottom to top. It's not just another trendy decorator touch, but a total aesthetic.
The main stage, seating 600, is directly above and packed with winches, pulleys, cables and catwalks. Seats can be flown up to the ceiling at the touch of a button; the stage floor can be configured from flat, proscenium or thrust in a few hours.
Oct 13, 2009, 4:25 AM
Some pics of the Winspear Opera House from Dallas Terry (http://www.flickr.com/photos/dallasterry/)...
Oct 14, 2009, 7:13 AM
Some renderings of and info about City Performance Hall...
This welcoming village for the arts will act as an inspiring home to Dallas community theater, music, and dance companies. SOM’s design includes a multipurpose 750-seat theater, two flexible 200-seat theaters, art galleries, a café, a bookshop, an enclosed garden, and educational and meeting spaces. An elegant arcade passing through the complex will enable commuters from the nearby transit station to engage with the arts on a daily basis.
Completion Year: 2010
Site Area: 100,000 ft2
Project Area: 110,000 ft2
Building Height: 76 ft
Number of Stories: 2
McCarthy Building Companies, Inc., a Texas builder since 1980, was selected to build the Dallas City Performance Hall, a 124,000-square-foot multi-phase theatre facility. During phase one of construction 45,000 square-feet will be completed. The City Performance Hall, McCarthy’s fourth project in Dallas’ Arts District, will be the first LEED Silver rated performing arts facility in Texas and will provide a new state-of-the-art home for small and medium arts groups reflecting the diverse communities of Dallas.
The City Performance Hall will be a striking structure composed of a long sweeping roof flanked by two stories of cast-in-place concrete walls. The front entrance will feature a large expanse of glass, and the finishes will consist of wood harvested from local stocks.
The City Performance Hall is intended to provide a lyrical and elegant addition to the Arts District and is organized as a series of linear pavilions, capped by varying ribbon-like roof forms. The multi-phase facility will consist of a 750-seat theatre, two flexible 200-seat theatres, art galleries, a café, a bookshop, an enclosed garden and educational and meeting spaces. Each of the different interior spaces is clearly defined, making the complex easy to navigate and utilize.
Oct 19, 2009, 2:36 PM
AT&T Performing Arts Center's Wyly Theatre and Winspear Opera House impress crowds at free downtown Dallas fest
12:18 AM CDT on Monday, October 19, 2009
By JOY TIPPING / The Dallas Morning News
Scott Whittall practically vibrated with excitement as he strolled down Flora Street during the AT&T Performing Arts Center's "Sunday Spotlight" event, which topped a weeklong celebration of opening festivities for the center.
"They've created this amazing walk through the center of the arts," said Whittall, 45, of Dallas. Gesturing around at the crowds, he compared the vibrancy to that of New York City. "This is such a huge day for Dallas," he said. "We're so metropolitan now – with the opening of this center, Dallas has landed."
Thousands of visitors attended the daylong festival, which included tours of the new Wyly Theatre and Winspear Opera House, free admission at Arts District museums, hands-on art activities, and more than 50 free performances of dance, music, acrobatics and more.
Maria May, public relations director for the AT&T Performing Arts Center, estimated that the crowd numbered at least 25,000, based on the number of programs and other materials that volunteers handed out. But since not everyone got a program, that number is probably low, she said.
Oct 19, 2009, 2:50 PM
What a great day for Dallas, TEXAS and arts in the whole Southwest!! I can't wait to visit the Winspear! Just bought tickets to Don Pasquale in February.
Oct 21, 2009, 4:55 AM
From Sunday's opening events...
Oct 21, 2009, 2:53 PM
Photos by Ninjatune:
Oct 21, 2009, 4:58 PM
you'd think koolhaus would be more careful given prior events...
Anyway this is great for Dallas. I'll be there in 1 month and I'll be sure to drop by.
Aug 12, 2010, 3:53 PM
City Performance Hall u/c as seen from the Chase Tower skylobby...
Rendering of City Performance Hall...
Sep 14, 2010, 6:22 AM
Nov 24, 2010, 2:49 PM
Apr 28, 2011, 5:01 AM
Updates from Feb.-April of this year...
Apr 28, 2011, 5:50 AM
The inside walls are instresting...
Apr 13, 2012, 9:12 PM
City Performance Hall...
Jul 20, 2012, 1:22 AM
Inside City Performance Hall...
Jul 20, 2012, 10:18 PM
More from inside City Performance Hall...
Jul 21, 2012, 4:18 AM
What a gem.
Aug 8, 2012, 12:57 PM
Will The City of Dallas’ Arts District Venue-For-All Really Work For Everyone?
By PETER SIMEKAugust 7th, 2012 8:58am
After years of meetings and conversations, designs, financial hand-wringing, infighting, and speculation, the latest — and, for now, final — venue in the Dallas Arts District, City Performance Hall, will open on September 14.
It is, with its eastward- and westward-facing monolithic concrete walls, little entry steps, and street-abutting glass façade, the most unremarkable building on Flora Street. Simple and pragmatic, unassuming and uninspiring, the $40.45 million venue wasn’t designed by a so-called “starchitect.” It doesn’t flash like the Winspear Opera House, or befuddle like the Wyly. It isn’t the elegant acoustic machine that is the Meyerson, and it doesn’t possess the graceful beauty of Piano’s Nasher Sculpture Center. It is not ugly, but you would never call it beautiful. It is a building that is functional, approachable, and unpretentious. And in terms of Dallas cultural architecture, it is a remarkable achievement.
vBulletin® v3.8.7, Copyright ©2000-2013, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.