Cause for Celebration – Dallas City Performance Hall

Projections on the walls in the lobby entrance of the DCPH logo.
The logo reflects the building’s roofline which resembles an undulating wave.
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Another architectural gem opened in the Dallas Arts District.  The gem is the Dallas City Performance Hall (DCPH). A ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday morning began a weekend-long celebration with 40 events. The concept for the new building was to provide first-rate space in the Arts District to mid-size and emerging performing arts groups who do not own their own facility. This need exists across multiple disciplines – a stage for dance, theater, music or chorale performances, as well as lectures and special events.

On Friday evening, we had the opportunity to hear individuals from the brain trust who joined forces and produced a thoughtful, high quality entry into the Arts District. Here are the professionals on the panel:

  • Leigh Breslau (now partner with Trahan Architects), Design architect, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill | Chicago office
  • Brian George, Architect of Record, Corgan Associates | Dallas office
  • Jack Hagler, Theater and Lighting design, Schuler and Shook | Dallas, TX.
  • Mark Holden, Acoustics, Jaffee Holden | Norwalk, CT.

From the panel, we learned that 70 arts organizations were interviewed to understand their specific requirements. From this feedback, the team collaborated with the City of Dallas and each other to accommodate multiple, sometimes conflicting, performing arts needs.  I observed that the panelist, who have worked together since 2004 on this project, genuinely respect and like each other.

The result is a 750 seat hall – 550 on the lower level and 200 in mezzanine. It’s proof that on a tight, 100% publicly funded budget of $40.5 million an exquisitely designed and engineered structure can be built.

When discussing the unique requirements of the DCPH, Mr. Breslau said that the design was inspired by his admiration of Renzo Piano’s Nasher Sculpture Center (down the street on Flora) and his mentor Louis Kahn’s Kimball Museum in Fort Worth. What he adopted was the layout of a series of linear pavilions. Eventually the DCPH will have three side-by-side rectangles with waving ribbon rooflines. Interaction with the urban setting, said Mr. Breslau, was the reason there is a front two-story glass lobby and minimal setback from Flora Street.  “We wanted a city or village for the arts. The patron in the glass lobby becomes one of the actors on stage.”

Phase One of Dallas Center for Performing Arts (DCPH) – west side profile.
60,000 sf on 100,000 sf site where two more pavilions will flank this one, completing the DCPH performing arts campus.
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Acoustician Mr. Holden shared with us the complexity of addressing the varying sound types, e.g. amplified and acoustic vibrations, inside the hall.  While outside and overhead, the flight path from Love Field had to go unnoticed to the audiences. He said that “out of necessity, this was most flexible hall his firm has designed.” When you enter, notice the cast-in-place concrete walls with the random patterns of “boards simulating wood.” The textured pattern was an intentional part of the sound reverberation calculations. Also, notice the walls and where the acoustic panels, which resemble “roman shades,” have been lowered or raised. To manipulate sound, 13 double-baffled wool panels can be mechanically and individually adjusted (see photos below).

Concrete walls and wool acoustic panels
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Inside view of adjustable wool acoustic panels
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

In a blog post last year, I highlighted work by the local artist Shane Pennington. Much to my delight he is the first artist commissioned by the Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs to make public art for the DCPH. Specifically, he was asked to make a digital painting for the theater’s stage curtain.

Staying true to his reputation as imaginative, technically savvy and out-of-the-box, his piece titled, Points of Life, is very cool (see image below). The medium is a programmable LED curtain – an electronic 57’ long grid made of 8” x 8” squares. Each square is like a colored pixel. All squares converge optically into animated images of walking figures. It’s comparable to the way Chuck Close paints his portraits, and how we experience and see his images.

“Points of Life” – 15 minute loop of urban pedestrians | Artist: Shane Pennington
(photo: Front Burner | D Magazine)

In an interview with Peter Simek for D Magazine, Pennington talks about his summer in Berlin and being inspired by people watching in the city’s central plaza, Alexanderplatz:

“I filmed about four hours of material, and brought it back to the states. Then I went through it and hand-selected each character. As you can imagine, there are probably thousands of people really walking through this landscape, so I hand-selected each one. There are over ten thousand images that I had to go through. Each frame of every person had to be cut out and inserted.

Sitting in the plaza, obviously there are certain differences, like their (sic: Germans’) little hot dog stands, but if you really sat back and took the time to just absorb it and just watch life, it is fairly in a beautiful message. We’re all similar. It transcends boundaries and countries and all that stuff. In a sense, that’s kind of the beautiful message of this (sic: Points of Life).

“Dropped ceiling” is part of the acoustics and design which gives space for materials to muffle any overhead sound.
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Proof in the pudding (or actually hearing a performance):

I experienced the first live performance on Friday night which featured Sarah Jaffe, a soulful 20-year old North Texan singer and songwriter. I intentionally sat in the mezzanine, unexpectedly and happily surrounded by Jaffe’s fans. The sound was incredible – clear. My view from Row 11, Seat 11 – fantastic. The seat, covered with acoustically correct fabric – comfortable.

As a nice prelude to her performance, the warm-up band came from Dallas’ Arts Magnet school, conveniently located right across the street. Seven students from Booker T. Washington High School for the Visual and Performing Arts, joined on stage by Jaffe, sang delicate acoustic tunes.

As far back as the 1990’s, the DCPH was conceived as part of the grand plan for the Dallas Arts District – a special place for emerging and mid-size performing arts organizations. The opening this weekend was a big success for the Office of Cultural Affairs – a division of City of Dallas. Kudos to OCA for staying true to its mission: “Establish a cultural system that ensures all Dallas citizens and visitors have an opportunity to experience the finest in arts and culture.”

Be back next Sunday with more on art.

Enjoy, Meg

Concerned Dallas Citizens Unite

Eating lunch outdoors this Saturday at the Nasher Cafe, here’s my view. Picasso’s staring at a patch of reseeded dirt where there was once lush lawn.

Nasher Sculpture Garden on an overcast noon | August 25, 2012
Artist: Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) | Spanish
Head of Woman |1958
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Dallas has done so much over the twenty-five years I have lived here to elevate its cultural offerings and profile. The Dallas Arts District is a piece – a large piece – in the success of offering Dallas citizens and visitors visual and performing arts housed in note-worthy architecture. The District has grown to a 68-acre cultural and residential campus.

The Nasher Sculpture Center, which opened in 2003, is one of the District’s gems designed by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Italian architect, Renzo Piano. His team took time to study and understand the peculiarities of the Texas climate, especially the brutal summer sun. An arched glass roof with a perforated aluminum screen in an egg-crate pattern directs the natural light into the galleries and anticipates the sun’s daily arc from southeast to southwest. (See image below.)

Close-up of “egg crate”
(photo: Nasher Sculpture Center)

Another architectural firm, Foster + Partners of London, spent one year analyzing the arc of the sun before finalizing its design of the Winspear Opera House which is a 2009 addition to the district. A two-acre, steel frame canopy hovers over the Winspear as a mechanism to successfully deflect the Texas sun, especially in the summer months, and lower the ambient temperature. (See image below.)

 

Winspear Opera House in Dallas Arts District | 2009
Architect: Foster + Partners led by Spencer du Grey (photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

  
A recent addition still under construction and adjacent to the Nasher is Museum Tower, a 42-story residential building. Unfortunately, the design by Los Angeles architect Scott Johnson was not as sensitive to the climate and its impact on the surroundings as the other two architects’ previously mentioned. Clad in convex glass panels, the building is a giant column that magnifies and reflects sunlight onto its neighbors. (See image below.)
Museum Tower diverts sunlight into Nasher’s sculpture garden. Thus, the patches of dirt and brown grass at the Nasher this Saturday.
On a personal note: I find the building itself quite beautiful and elegant, but wish the surfaces accommodated the neighborhood and the James Turrell installation at the Nasher had not been ruined.

Museum Tower seen from Nasher (photo: Brandon Thibodeaux, The New York Times)

 
But, it is not only the Nasher that is hit. The impact is 360 degree.  I have concerns about:
  • The trees and plant life in the soon-to-be open Klyde Warren Park
  • Reflections into nearby buildings, like the Dallas Museum of Art, One Arts Plaza, Hunt Oil Tower
  • This conflict, which has received national and international press, setting back the hard-earned gains in Dallas’ reputation as an increasingly cultural place to live
  • Harming the reasons people will buy a home in Museum Tower. (Note: I want the project be a success for the Arts District, City of Dallas, its investors and the developers.)
  • Museum Tower becoming a scapegoat for any future sun damage in the area, regardless of the real cause.

There many bright minds – hopefully all are well-intended people – working on possible solutions and vetting possibilities. In my opinion, the sooner a workable solution is implemented, the better for everyone involved.

Having a personal long-term view of Dallas as a great place to live, I hope this messy, time-consuming, expensive conflict ignites a larger conversation about urban planning, communities and neighborhoods.

Why not have a thorough design review board in the City of Dallas? Why not have interested neighbors and citizens take time to review proposed buildings for any impact on their homes or institutions? In other places I have lived (granted smaller towns), a design that raised concerns and eyebrows, whether it be reflectivity or height, could be rejected by the town’s zoning commission. Why not here in Dallas?

Along the lines of a constructive dialogue, there will be a panel discussion on Saturday, September 8th at 2:30 pm at the Dallas Museum of Art.  KERA’s Krys Boyd will moderate Aesthetics and the City with panelists Veletta Lill, Executive Director of the Dallas Arts District, and Vel Hawes, a Dallas architect who served as Raymond Nasher’s representative for the design and construction of the Nasher Sculpture Center. (Updated on 9/1/2012: The panel has been postponed.)

Show your support as a citizen concerned with finding and implementing a workable solution before more damage is done to the Arts District by clicking on the petition, Stop the Glare. I have signed it because I believe this is a 360 degree issue that needs to be addressed.

I’ll be taking long weekend for Labor Day…be back on Sunday, September 9th.

Enjoy,

Meg

A Tool: “Guilt-free Play”

A good friend of mine has made an excellent mark and reputation in the design world and hospitality industry. She’s someone who is productive and articulate about her work routines and creative process. The other day we were talking about a concept called “guilt-free play” which increases her productivity and makes life more enjoyable. It’s a simple tool. Work is followed/ rewarded by a planned activity that recharges her soul/ body.

Last Friday night, my “guilt-free play” was a trip to the Dallas Arts District with a group of girlfriends, who are funny, after working on several projects in my studio. We had dinner at one of the food trucks – my favorite is the Green House Truck, and celebrated the Chinese New Year by watching the Crow Museum’s Dragon Parade.

Then, there was an electric surprise at the Dallas Museum of Art. To celebrate the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit, anyone could dress as one of his divas – Lady Gaga, Madonna – or use their own imagination. A 10-year old girl, who admires JPG and is Project Runway material, made this fish bowl purse. Her belt and necklace are stainless steel scouring pads and a tea strainer.

Late night at Dallas Museum of Art | Jean Paul Gaultier-inspired purse (photo: teresa rafidi)

Late night at Dallas Museum of Art | Jean Paul Gaultier-inspired clothing by a 10-year old (photo: teresa rafidi)

My group of friends made JPG-inspired hats in the DMA’s C3 Lab (Center for Creative Connections) with the local milliner, Cintra MacGregor who has a shop in the Bishop Arts District above Bolsa Restaurant. Another local talented artist, Teresa Rafidi, was also in C3 taking photos of hat makers and Fashionistas. All the photos in tonight’s blog are by teresa: http://www.rafidiphotography.com

Late night at Dallas Museum of Art |Ya Ya Girlfriends in Jean Paul Gaultier-inspired hats (photo: teresa rafidi)

I like this tool of “guilt-free play.” It made me more focused and productive in my studio during the day because I didn’t tell myself, “I’ll do this later tonight.” It also led to being totally engaged in the Arts District’s Late Night activities.

Happy Year of the Dragon.

Worth A Trip While It Lasts – Art Sponsored by TEDxSMU

Artist: Shane Pennington. Commissioned by TEDxSMU and Dallas Artist District. Materials: Belgium ice | stone selected to commemorate a boyhood friend. (Photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Dallas-based artist Shane Pennington is the guy who brought the Dallas Arts District AURORA this fall. He is once again exercising his creative talents. Shane has installed a new site-specific show, “Transcendence.” This commission is a Japanese Rock garden waiting to happen as a single stone frozen in an ice block – in the shape of a body or cube – will eventually fall into place on the Zen-like raked granite once the ice has melted.

Artist: Shane Pennington. Commissioned by TEDxSMU and Dallas Artist District. Materials: Belgium ice | stone hand-selected to represent the heart. Made in Belgium, the source of purest block ice, this creation took 6 months to form. (Photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

It is well worth a visit – across from the Wyly Theater at the intersection of Leonard and Flora.