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Dallas’s New, Cutting-Edge Theater, Explained

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If you’ve recently been through downtown Dallas, you may have noticed a shimmering new theater, whose facade is just being completed this month. Opening in October, it was designed by REX–the firm helmed by Joshua Prince Ramus which previously built Seattle’s magnificentpublic library, and was previously known as the New York office of Rem Koolhaas’s firm, OMA.*

From a distance, it’s a minimalist metal box, but close up, you can see that the facade is actually a scrim of aluminum tubes that evoke the fringe on a giant metal curtain. Art & Seek actually just posted a great video describing what the visual effect was meant to be, and how the structural engineers pulled it off. But that’s not what makes the building one of the most eagerly anticipated in 2009 among architecture fans: Rather, it’s the clever way that the ground floor theater space has been devised.

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Usually, theaters are buried in a building’s guts, surroundedby support spaces. By contrast, REX moved those administrative functions above and below, making the theater itself into a totally transparent box that can be opened on all four sides. That open plan flexibility is a theater director’s dream, allowing all kinds of experimental layouts and seating arrangements; in the off season, the space can easily transform into a rented event space:

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In this video from the 2006 TEX conference–when the Wyly theater had just gotten its go-ahead–Prince-Ramus explains the project, beginning at minute 9:40:

*The official design credit for the project goes to “REX/OMA”

[Images via Arch Daily] CK