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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