Dallas Arts District

Dallas Arts District

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The downtown Dallas Arts District, whose centerpiece is an ultramodern performance center designed by Sir Norman Foster, has given buzz a new meaning. During the preliminary planning the city fought hard—and raised unprecedented funds—for the 68-acre complex, whose completion required some three decades. Then came the long-awaited opening, with a week-long series of celebrations and a flurry of reviews, both positive and negative. Now is the—perhaps most important— postopening period, when the new neighborhood must establish itself in a city more famous for football and corporate headquarters than for Shakespeare and Puccini.

The good news is that from an architectural standpoint, the additions to such Art District heavy-hitters as the I.M. Pei–designed Meyerson Symphony Hall and Renzo Piano’s graceful Nasher Sculpture Center are ambitious and innovative.

The Winspear Opera House (2403 Flora St) created by Foster + Partners, centers on 60-foot-tall glass walled lobby positioned under a steel aluminum-slatted drum intended to deflect the sun and create a cooler microclimate around the house. The bright-red drum rises above the solar canopy like a mod top hat lends a playful touch of color to the district. Inside, the state-of-the-art performance hall has some of the best acoustics in the country; even the stage curtain received special artistic treatment: mixed-media artist Guillermo Kuitca designed an abstraction of the seating plan that was reproduced on the fabric.

Across the street, the Wyly Theatre (2400 Flora St) is much smaller and more contained but no less stunning. Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus’s sleek theater is clad in aluminum poles of varying sizes, giving the façade an almost fluid texture—like a rippling curtain frozen in space. New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff wrote that these new buildings “sit comfortably alongside older structures like I.M. Pei’s concert hall and Edward Larrabee Barnes’s art museum, extending the conversation across generations as well as contrasting architectural philosophies.”

Written by Simone Girner

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