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Winspear Opera House, Dallas, Texas by Foster + Partners

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Foster + Partners’ new Winspear Opera House in Dallas has offically opened its doors - as has its neighbour, the Wyly Theatre by OMA/REX

‘This building is not inaccessible, like the traditional opera house where you go through a grand portico,’ says project architect Spencer de Grey about Foster + Partners’ new Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House in Dallas. ‘We’ve tried to get rid of all that stuffiness and come up with something more democratic, where the relationship between the inside and the outside is very easy and direct’.

Opening to the public today (15 October), the $197 million project is the practice’s first opera house and is one of four venues within the city’s emerging AT&T Performing Arts Center quarter.

The 2,200-seat Winspear sits next to the already complete Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre – a flexible 575-seat theatre for ‘classical and experimental performances’ designed by REX/OMA, Joshua Prince-Ramus and Rem Koolhaas (pictured bottom). The neighbouring Annette Strauss Artist Square – an outdoor performance space also designed by Foster + Partners – will open for its first season next year, while SOM’s City Performance Hall is due to complete in 2011.

The opera house boasts a 2,600m2 glazed facade, part of which ‘lifts’ to open up the lobby, café and box circle-level restaurant to Sammons Park.

At the heart of the building is the main performance hall, clad in 4,000m2 of red glass panels. ‘The red glass is a strong statement,’ says de Grey. ‘We looked at many different kinds of red materials but when we saw the glass it just sang.’

Before deciding on the layout of the stage and auditorium, the practice went on a tour of opera houses in the US and Europe. It settled on the ‘classic horseshoe configuration. I don’t think anybody has bettered that basic geometric shape,’ says de Grey.

Describing the how the team managed to create a ‘very intimate’ theatre space for more than 2,000 people, de Grey adds: ‘We tried to dissolve the boundary between the audience and the stage. One of the crucial elements is the design of the balcony fronts. We’ve kept them light and elegant. I hope that people will feel at ease here.’  

See full coverage of the AT&T Performing Arts Center buildings in the January 2010 edition of The Architectural Review.


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