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In Dallas, an arts district rounds into shape

October 7, 2009 | 10:00 am

6a00d8341c630a53ef0120a5c95371970b-800wi Though the arts district on the edge of downtown Dallas has a long and bumpy history, it is rounding into something at least resembling final form. Two much anticipated new buildings -- an opera house by Foster + Partners and a theater by Joshua Prince-Ramus and Rem Koolhaas -- will open next week, complemented by some new landscape design meant to knit the various parts of the district more effectively together.

As a group, the new elements are known as the AT&T Performing Arts Center, and they join existing venues in and around the arts district by an all-star lineup of architects including I.M. Pei, Renzo Piano, Edward Larrabee Barnes and Brad Cloepfil.

Still, the district remains decidedly less, as an urban whole, than the sum of its pedigreed architectural parts. Why is that? Is it a problem with the arts district model? Or with the specific planning in this case? Or with the particular architects enlisted in Dallas over the decades, and their desire to produce singular, stand-alone icons?

Find out in my review.

-- Christopher Hawthorne

Photo: Dallas' new Wyly Theater, right, and Winspear Opera House, rear. Credit: Timothy Hursley

Comments () | Archives (1)

The problem isn't with the individual buildings, the problem is that there is no fabric in downtown Dallas to attract people to the sidewalk. With an abundance of parking, most people exit the adjacent freeway and drive straight into one of many massive parking garages. The area may be nicely landscaped, but people in Dallas aren't used to walking and there is little to do in the neighborhood aside from these institutions. I was there this past summer and visited the Dallas Museum of Art and the Nasher. I didn't see anything in the nearby vicinity that appeared to be open on a Saturday afternoon. More mixed uses in the district would be a tremendous asset.


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