Comprised 4 main buildings interwoven within 10 acres of pedestrianised landscaping and public parks, the Centre opens up the cultural experience open to all and is funded in the main by generous contributions from America’s most wealthy. Providing new homes for The Dallas Opera, Dallas Theater Center, Texas Ballet Theater, Dallas Black Dance Theatre and theAnita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico, the four main buildings and their performance spaces are each named after the most munificent of contributors.
Foster + Partners were challenged with designing the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House and its Margaret McDermott Performance Hall. The hall provides a dramatic red heart within the transparent encasement of the Opera House where 2,200 people will be able to enjoy performances of opera, ballet and Broadway productions. The transparency is cemented in a metaphorical form by the inclusion of a restaurant and café which will be open to the public throughout the day. Design relates to function with the end goal of encouraging universal participation in the experience of the Opera House. This utopian clause is also apparent in Foster’s other design for the centre, that of Annette Strauss Artist Square which is hoped to be the city’s leading outdoor performing arts venue, situated in the10-acre Elaine D. and Charles A. Sammons Park, designed by Michel Desvigne of Paris, and able to accommodate audiences of up to 5,000 in an open-air setting.
The more intimate Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre is designed by Joshua Prince-Ramus of REX (partner in charge) and Rem Koolhaas of OMA. The 600 seat theatre offers an architectural twist on the typical theatre building. Over 12 stacked levels transitional, technical and work zones are positioned either above or below the auditorium rather than the traditional peripheral arrangement apparently allowing artistic directors to rapidly change the venue’s configurations in order to best serve their artistic visions. Again transparency is central to the design and goal of inclusivity so a transparent cladding is used in the Potter Rose Performance Hall within to allow for pedestrian views into the facility, as well as a variety of audience views of the Dallas Arts District and city skyline.
SOM was tasked with the design of the last building of the cluster, City Performance Hall which is set to host more low-key performances by smaller performing arts organizations. The project is funded by the City of Dallas and will open in 2011.
But for now both Foster’s and Prince-Ramus and Koolhaas’ collaborative designs will lead the way in one of the most dramatic cultural projects of its kind in the United States of America as the curtain is lifted on October 12.
Niki May Young