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Architectural Record Catches Up with the Arts District


by Jerome Weeks 9 Feb 2009

Zach Mortice summarizes the buildings and aspirations that are going into the District. Two interesting points. I hadn’t known that the city’s Performance Hall will be an add-on-as-money-permits design: SOM’s City Performance Hall is organized as a series of sloping parallel concrete bands of varying heights and widths. Each band contains a single performance venue, […]

CTA TBD

Zach Mortice summarizes the buildings and aspirations that are going into the District. Two interesting points. I hadn’t known that the city’s Performance Hall will be an add-on-as-money-permits design:

SOM’s City Performance Hall is organized as a series of sloping parallel concrete bands of varying heights and widths. Each band contains a single performance venue, which design partner Leigh Breslau, AIA, says will create easy-to-navigate circulation paths meant to aid the 70 groups that will use the building. As the only project in the center that is city-funded and dependent on bonds, Breslau says he designed it to be built as financing permits one section at a time, as a “continuous ribbon” that still maintains design coherence.

And Brad Coepfil, the designer of the new Booker T. Washington Arts Magnet, agrees with moi — the idea that the Arts District (and the accompanying Woodall Rodgers Park) will create an ‘urban pedestrian neighborhood’ is a bit of a stretch. For now, anyway:

Many hope the district will evolve into a pedestrian neighborhood of mixed-uses and artistic synergies in the middle of sprawl-laden Dallas. Arts district boosters say that having a public high school helps make the area an active community; housing and retail development should also prevent the district from becoming a cultural ghetto that empties out when the theaters are dark. But Cloepfil says it might be misguided to expect Jane Jacobs-style urbanism to sprout in north Texas, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Dallas might have to accept the arts district as a successful destination, not a way of life. “I’m trying to be a realist to other urban types,” he says. “I do think there are other models of urban success that we may not want to believe are successful.”

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  • Jerome,

    The City Performance Hall was designed to be built in phases, as the full program is extensive (keep in mind that the facility is designed to be the home of about 70 small and mid-size groups). First phase is the 750-seat hall (2 levels, so we can also use it for smaller audiences of under 500 by opening only the lower level). Construction of this first phase was funded through the 2006 Bond Program ($38 million). Future phases will include 2 flexible theaters (black box); rehearsal rooms; and gallery space (plus the typical support spaces of a performing hall such as dressing rooms, loading dock, etc.). One of the design challenges given to SOM was that the phases, particularly the first phase, had to be designed in such a way that they would visually stand up on their own.

    More details at http://dallascityhall.org/committee_briefings/briefings0207/QOL_021207_City_Performance_Hall.pdf

    We’re very excited about seeing the building come to fruition — we have many great arts groups waiting to perform at the City Performance Hall!

    • I would suggest that the best first choice for a pedestrian area in downtown, is to shut Main St. off to car traffic from Downtown through Deep Ellum to Fair Park. That would help all three areas.
      Then gradually add to that more pedestrian streets as developments develop. I think far sighted people could see the day where all of Downtown is a pedestrian mall. There really is no reason cars have to drive through downtown. They could just as easily drive TO downtown, or AROUND downtown.