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Sanjay Gangal
Sanjay Gangal
Sanjay Gangal is the President of IBSystems, the parent company of, MCADCafe, EDACafe.Com, GISCafe.Com, and ShareCG.Com.

Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House in Dallas, Texas by Foster + Partners

December 11th, 2011 by Sanjay Gangal

Article source: Foster + Partners

The Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House is one of the four venues that comprises the AT&T Performing Arts Center, a new center for music, theatre and dance in downtown Dallas that opens on October 12, 2009. The Winspear Opera House provides a new home for The Dallas Opera, Texas Ballet Theater, Broadway productions and numerous other performing arts organizations and touring productions that serve Dallas and the surrounding areas.

  • Architect: Foster + Partners
  • Name of Project: Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House
  • Location: Dallas, Texas

Designed by Foster + Partners under Pritzker Prize-winning architect Norman Foster, the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, seats 2,200 (with flexible seating capacity that can accommodate audiences up to 2,300) in its Margaret McDermott Performance Hall. The design of the performance hall is a 21st-century interpretation of the classic horseshoe configuration and is engineered with flexible acoustics and stage and orchestra pit arrangements for performances of opera, musical theatre, ballet and other dance forms. The Winspear Opera House also includes the Nancy B. Hamon Education and Recital Hall, and provides extensive back-of-house support spaces and administrative offices.

The Winspear Opera House reinvents the conventional opera house form, inverting its closed, hierarchical structure to create a transparent, publicly welcoming series of spaces that wrap around the rich red glass drum of the performance hall. The goal was to create a building that is not only fully integrated with the cultural life of Dallas, but is a destination in its own right for the non-opera going public, offering a restaurant and café that are publicly accessible throughout the day.

The Winspear Opera House anchors and defines the northwest quadrant of the AT&T PAC’s new 10-acre Elaine D. and Charles A. Sammons Park, designed by Michel Desvigne. The opera house’s Annette and Harold Simmons Signature Glass Façade, which ascends 60 feet and encloses the public C. Vincent Prothro Lobby, creates transparency between the opera house and the surrounding park. The façade provides dramatic views of the red glass McDermott Performance Hall, the lobby, the staircase and the Box Circle and Grand Tier levels; from within the Winspear Opera House, it provides a sweeping view of downtown Dallas’ skyscrapers. The Rosemary and Roger Enrico Family Gateway heightens the drama of attending a performance by guiding visitors from the three story light well of the Lexus Red Parking Garage, through the glass lobby, and into McDermott Performance Hall.

Radiating from the Winspear Opera House on all sides, the AT&T PAC’s Sky Canopy shades the Simmons Glass Façade and part of Annette Strauss Artist Square, creating new outdoor spaces for visitors to gather and relax. The canopy’s louvers are arranged at fixed angles that follow the path of the sun to provide optimal shade throughout the day. By eliminating direct sunlight on the façade, and by creating a cooler microclimate around the building, the canopy significantly reduces the energy requirements of the Winspear Opera House.

To enhance the connection with the Park, an 84-foot wide section of the glass façade is retractable to a height of 23 feet, literally opening the lobby, Café and Box Circle-level Restaurant to Sammons Park. The design also features two outdoor terraces; one on the east and the other on the west. Terrace bars are located at all of the opera house’s gathering areas.


Architect’s Statement

The new Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House in Dallas redefines the opera house for the 21st century, breaking down barriers to make opera more accessible for a wider audience. Responding to the Dallas climate, a solar canopy extends from the building, shading a fully glazed, sixty-foot-tall lobby which enhances the transparency of the building. This establishes a direct relationship between inside and outside, creating greater accessibility and thus a more democratic building. Beneath the canopy, which forms an integral part of the environmental strategy, a shaded pedestrian plaza creates a major new public space for Dallas, as defined by the masterplan designed by Foster + Partners and OMA for the AT&T Performing Arts Center.

Internally, behind the glazed screen, there are a series of publicly welcoming spaces that wrap around the rich red glass drum of the 2,200-seat auditorium. Entered beneath a lower canopy, the transition from Sammons Park through the lobby into the auditorium is designed to heighten the drama for those attending a performance—in effect, “taking theatre to the audience.” The grand staircase, flowing from one side to the other around the drum, links all the lobby spaces, providing an opportunity for the audience to pause, talk and observe. Deep cuts into the drum allow the audience to move horizontally around each of the four balcony levels.

The auditorium for an audience of 2,200 is designed to be as intimate as possible. A horseshoe plan combined with the dramatic vertical stacking of its seating levels ensures that the audience is as close as possible to the stage, thus enhancing the impact of the performance. The distance between the stage and the balcony is approximately 90 feet—less than the distance between home plate and third base on a baseball field. Intimacy is further reinforced by emphasizing the balcony fronts, with their white gold finish highlighted against the rich dark red interior. The carefully designed acoustics are also enhanced by the compactness of the auditorium. The detail and finishes improve the resonance of the human voice, while making the orchestra sound rich but clear. A chandelier with 320 cascading acrylic tubes of light is drawn up into the ceiling of the auditorium with its two mighty rings at the beginning of each performance. Argentinean artist Guillermo Kuitca has been commissioned to create a mesmerizing curtain for the stage.

The sheltered public areas beneath the canopy benefit from a cool, shaded microclimate. Vertical sliding glass panels moving the full length of the east façade allow the building with its café and restaurant to be fully opened up, further enhancing the seamless transition between inside and outside. Behind the café is Nancy B. Hamon Education and Recital Hall, designed for smaller scale performances, rehearsals, talks and social events. The opera house has three stages to allow performances to be rotated in repertory, a fly tower together with dressing rooms, offices and a generous loading dock.


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Category: Opera House

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